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Exchanging ideas in healthcare

San Pao hospital, BarcelonaThe Catalan Observatory enables the exchange of ideas on topics such as European health, Catalonian media trends, the Catalan economy and economic competitiveness. The first conference, in March 2010, focused on innovation and policy learning in health care.

'There are several parallels between UK and Catalan health reforms, with lessons to be learned on both sides,' observed Julian Le Grand, Professor of Social Policy at the LSE. He analysed four models for managing the NHS: trust in doctors to manage the system, leading to long waiting lists; mistrust ('targets and terror – one has to acknowledge it worked!'); voice, or procedures enabling feedback and participation from patients; and choice, where funding follows patients' choice of treatment centre.

One of Spain's 17 autonomous health regions, with over seven million citizens, Catalonia's public health care spending is just below the Spanish average, balanced by slightly higher private expenditure. Guillem Lopez Casanovas, Professor of Public Economics at University Pompeu Fabra, introduced the Catalonian health care system, exploring the problems of political influence as well as the possibilities offered for innovation and experimentation.

The talks inspired discussions ranging from how to deal with failing hospitals to how opportunities for patient choice vary in rural and urban areas. Round tables the following day covered topics such as similarities between English and Catalan reforms, health system devolution and incentives to donate blood within the European Union.

Contemporary globalisation and European integration are creating new challenges for Catalonian public sector efficiency, private sector competitiveness, the welfare state sustainability, national recognition, cultural development and more.

In response to these issues, LSE Enterprise launched the Catalan Observatory in 2009. A collaboration with Patronat Catalunya Món, it is led by Professor Paul Preston and Dr Joan Costa-i-Font of LSE.