The effects of austerity measures on quality of healthcare services: a national survey of physicians in the public and private sectors in Portugal

Tiago Correia, Graça Carapinheiro, Helena Carvalho, J.M. Silva, Gilles Dussault

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: The European Union member countries reacted differently to the 2008 economic and financial crisis. However, few countries have monitored the outcomes of their policy responses, and there is therefore little evidence as to whether or not savings undermined the performance of health systems. We discuss the situation in Portugal, where a financial adjustment program was implemented between 2011 and 2014, and explore the views of health workers on the effects of austerity measures on quality of care delivery. Methods: A nationwide survey of physicians' experiences was conducted in 2013-2014 (n=3442). We used a two-step model to compare public and private services and look at the possible moderating effects of the physicians' specialty and years of practice. Our data analysis included descriptive statistics, the independent t test, analysis of variance (ANOVA), multivariate logistic regression, General Linear Model Univariate Analysis, non-parametric methods (bootstrap), and post hoc probing. Results: Mainly in the public sector, the policy goal of maintaining quality of care was undermined by a lack of resources, the deterioration in medical residency conditions, and to a lesser extent, greater administrative interference in clinical decision-making. Differences in public and private services showed that the effects of the austerity measures were not the same throughout the health system. Our results also showed that physicians with similar years of practice and in the same medical specialty did not necessarily experience the same pressures. Conclusions: The debate on the effects of austerity measures should focus more closely on health workers' concrete experiences, as they demonstrate the non-linearity between policy setting and expected outcomes. We also suggest that it is necessary to explore the interplay between lower quality and the undermining of trust relationships in health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number82
Number of pages12
JournalHuman resources for health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2017


  • Adjustment programs
  • Austerity measures
  • Economic crisis
  • Portugal
  • Quality of care
  • Trust


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