• allocative efficiency;
  • budget elasticities;
  • programme budgets;
  • local health authorities;
  • health outcomes


This paper examines the expenditure choices of local health authorities operating under fixed budget constraints. It applies a theoretical model of budgeting to a data set from 303 English Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across ten broad programmes of health care to derive estimates of the elasticity of expenditure in each programme with respect to the total income of the PCT. The results suggest quite similar income elasticities across most programmes, in the range 0.644–1.128. The only outlier is the musculoskeletal programme with an elasticity of about 0.46. The modelling also derives estimates of spending elasticities with respect to medical needs and thereby permits calculation of the implicit cost of saving a life year in five programmes of care. The results are important as they indicate to policy makers how specific programme areas might be affected by general budgetary reductions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.