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The effect of healthcare delivery privatisation on avoidable mortality: longitudinal cross-regional results from Italy, 1993–2003
  1. Cecilia Quercioli1,
  2. Gabriele Messina1,
  3. Sanjay Basu2,3,4,
  4. Martin McKee4,
  5. Nicola Nante1,
  6. David Stuckler4,5
  1. 1Dipartimento di Fisiopatologia, Medicina Sperimentale e Sanità Pubblica, Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy
  2. 2Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3Division of General Internal Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, California, USA
  4. 4Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  5. 5Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Cecilia Quercioli, Department of Public Health, University of Siena, Via Aldo Moro 2, 53100 Siena, Italy; quercioli2{at}


Background During the 1990s, Italy privatised a significant portion of its healthcare delivery. The authors compared the effectiveness of private and public sector healthcare delivery in reducing avoidable mortality (deaths that should not occur in the presence of effective medical care).

Methods The authors calculated the average rate of change in age-standardised avoidable mortality rates in 19 of Italy's regions from 1993 to 2003. Multivariate regression models were used to analyse the relationship between rates of change in avoidable mortality and levels of spending on public versus private healthcare delivery, controlling for potential demographic and economic confounders.

Results Greater spending on public delivery of health services corresponded to faster reductions in avoidable mortality rates. Each €100 additional public spending per capita on NHS delivery was independently associated with a 1.47% reduction in the rate of avoidable mortality (p=0.003). In contrast, spending on private sector services had no statistically significant effect on avoidable mortality rates (p=0.557). A higher percentage of spending on private sector delivery was associated with higher rates of avoidable mortality (p=0.002). The authors found that neither public nor private sector delivery spending was significantly associated with non-avoidable mortality rates, plausibly because non-avoidable mortality is insensitive to healthcare services.

Conclusion Public spending was significantly associated with reductions in avoidable mortality rates over time, while greater private sector spending was not at the regional level in Italy.

  • Avoidable mortality
  • healthcare delivery privatisation
  • health system performance
  • Italy
  • effectiveness
  • epidemiology
  • health services
  • mortality
  • access to healthcare
  • health policy
  • public health
  • eastern Europe
  • international health
  • policy
  • primary healthcare
  • social inequalities
  • social science
  • time series
  • unemployment

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  • Funding The authors declare that they are independent from any funders and that the study was carried out within their institutional work without any support from any third party.

  • Competing interests NN declares that he is the owner of a small private hospital.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.