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Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2000 Spring;16(2):591-625.

Health technology assessment in the United Kingdom.

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Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA.


The National Health Service (NHS) provides universal health coverage for all British citizens. Most services are free of charge, although modest copayments are sometimes applied. About 11% of the population also has private insurance. General practitioners, generally the first point of contact for accessing the system, are independent contractors who serve as gatekeepers for specialist and hospital services and enjoy substantial clinical autonomy. Hospitals are public and are regionalized, but the 1990 reforms made them self-governing trusts that contract with local purchasers (health authorities and general practitioner fundholders). Reforms beginning in 1990 moved the NHS away from a centralized administrative structure to more pluralistic arrangements in which competition, as well as management, influences how services develop. Health technology and health technology assessment (HTA) have gained increasing attention in the NHS during this period, as part of a wider NHS Research and Development (R&D) Strategy. The strategy promotes a knowledge-based health service with a strong research infrastructure and the capacity to critically review its own needs. HTA is the largest and most developed of the programs within the strategy. It has a formal system for setting assessment priorities involving widespread consultation within the NHS, and a National Co-ordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment. The strategy supports related centers such as the U.K. Cochrane Centre and the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. A hallmark of the HTA program is strong public participation. The United Kingdom has made a major commitment to HTA and to seeking effective means of reviewing and disseminating evidence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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