The association between bed occupancy rates and hospital quality in the English National Health Service
Bosque-Mercader L., Siciliani L.
AbstractWe study whether hospitals that exhibit systematically higher bed occupancy rates are associated with lower quality in England over 2010/11–2017/18. We develop an economic conceptual framework to guide our empirical analysis and run regressions to inform possible policy interventions. First, we run a pooled OLS regression to test if high bed occupancy is associated with, and therefore acts as a signal of, lower quality, which could trigger additional regulation. Second, we test whether this association is explained by exogenous demand–supply factors such as potential demand, and unavoidable costs. Third, we include determinants of bed occupancy (beds, length of stay, and volume) that might be associated with quality directly, rather than indirectly through bed occupancy. Last, we use a within-between random-effects specification to decompose these associations into those due to variations in characteristics between hospitals and variations within hospitals. We find that bed occupancy rates are positively associated with overall and surgical mortality, negatively associated with patient-reported health gains, but not associated with other indicators. These results are robust to controlling for demand–supply shifters, beds, and volume. The associations reduce by 12%-25% after controlling for length of stay in most cases and are explained by variations in bed occupancy between hospitals.