Investigating productivity change and hospital size: a nonparametric frontier approach
The study obtains measures of the productive efficiency of 'larger' and 'smaller' Northern Ireland hospitals during the 1986-92 pre-Trust period. The measures provide insights into how these hospitals were responding to the pressures for increased efficiency prior to Trust status. They also constitute a useful benchmark for evaluating productivity change under the post-1992 Trust status environment. A nonparametric frontier approach is used to measure productivity change and to decompose this into technical change (or shifts in the best practice frontier) and efficiency change (or change in how far a hospital is from the frontier). The latter change in efficiency is also decomposed into changes in scale efficiency, pure technical efficiency and input congestion. The findings indicate that smaller hospitals, starting from a less efficient base, achieved greater productivity gains than larger hospitals over 1986-92. For smaller hospitals, this was due to progressive shifts in the best practice frontier outweighing a substantial decline in efficiency. This decline was found to be due to a deterioration in scale efficiency over the period. The results overall support the current policy view that larger hospitals are more efficient than smaller hospitals in providing health care services.