Founded in 1983 (by Alan Maynard) and as one of the first university departments of its type, the Centre for Health Economics is a leading influence on UK health policy, helping shape the way society thinks about health and health care. And as the NHS grapples with financial pressures combined with frequent reorganisations and a pandemic and its aftermath, research carried out in CHE looks set to remain central to decisions about where and how increasingly limited budgets are spent.
Our job is not to make decisions but to provide the evidence and a way of thinking that helps policy-makers do a better job in allocating resources. Economics is not just about estimating the costs and benefits of a new drug, service or policy. In a world of defined budgets, it is also about quantifying the benefits other patients do not experience if limited resources are allocated elsewhere. With an increased policy focus on equity, we can also help policy makers understand the distribution of the benefits and opportunity costs.
Professor Mark Sculpher
Over nearly four decades, CHE has examined the economic case for drugs and treatments available for some of our most enduring health conditions including cancer, asthma and heart disease. We have studied the effectiveness of public health campaigns targeting smoking and alcohol, examined waiting times, hospital efficiency and compared the costs and benefits of hundreds of surgical techniques and interventions. These sorts of decisions have been made throughout the history of the health service, but it is better they are made based on objective evidence and research and that’s what CHE provides.
Work carried out has included the development of the formula used for more than 20 years to allocate health resources equitably across England, a model which influenced the approach taken in countries such as Brazil and Finland. CHE also contributed to the development of the quality adjusted life year (QALY), the gold standard measure of the quantity and quality of life, a concept which underpins assessments by NICE and other organisations internationally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) uses variations of the QALY measurement for planning health services around the globe.
CHE has a team of over 60 economists who are in constant demand at conferences around the world and who regularly advise governments and policy makers both in the UK and abroad. A programme of expert workshops attracts over 300 people a year from all over the world to be trained in the methods developed by CHE researchers. The work of CHE was recognised in 2007 when the Queen’s Anniversary Prize was awarded. In 2018 CHE was named as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives by making healthcare systems fairer and more effective. In 2019 we were granted an Athena SWAN Silver award, which recognises our commitment to good practice in recruiting, retaining and supporting the careers of women.
In addition to CHE's health economists there are a number of health economists (and health services researchers) located elsewhere in the University of York including the Department of Economics and Related Studies, the Department of Health Sciences, the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, the York Health Economics Consortium and the Hull York Medical School.