The University of Southampton

HMPR2005 Comparative Healthcare Systems and the Policy Process

Module Overview

Significant pressures arising from demographic and social change, the growing prevalence of chronic illness and technological advance have helped push healthcare and health policy to the top of political agendas across the world. As pressures on health services increase, politicians and policy makers around the world are engaged in a struggle to balance seemingly conflicting imperatives: the need to increase capacity, improve quality and achieve better health outcomes while containing health spending and managing scarce resources more effectively.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To explore challenges, problems and dilemmas in health policy and complex healthcare systems and some of the policies deployed to address them. The factors which shape policy responses and the process of policy making will also be considered. The module will draw on UK and international examples.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and explain significant challenges in health policy and healthcare systems
  • Demonstrate understanding of a range of policy instruments available to policy makers and healthcare managers for addressing challenges and solving problems in healthcare
  • Demonstrate critical awareness of factors which shape policy responses and the development and design of healthcare systems
  • Critically discuss the politics of healthcare and the health policy process
  • Articulate and apply concepts and frameworks used to analyse the policy process.


Topics covered in this module will draw on examples of health systems in different parts of the world and will include consideration of: 1. Frameworks for comparative analysis 2. Concepts and frameworks for analysing the policy process 3. Challenges, problems and dilemmas in health policy and healthcare. E.g. • expanding and improving health care and outcomes while containing costs • central control and local autonomy • role of the hospital sector in healthcare systems • interface between formal and informal care • variations in quality • governance and control • fragmented services • inequitable access 4. Policy responses and policy instruments: examples of themes to be explored • Competition and diversification of supply (e.g. the commissioner provider split and the public private mix; role of NGOs, insurance providers) • Resources, rationing and priority setting • Accountability, regulation and control • Performance management • Quality and safety • Innovation and improvement • Collaboration, partnership and integration 5. Ideological, historical, political, social and cultural factors which shape policy responses and healthcare systems: • The role of ideas, values and ideology. • Theories of power and power in healthcare systems

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

A variety of teaching and learning approaches will be used in this module. These include lead lectures, seminars, case studies, guided reading, group activities and e learning. Formative feedback from the tutor and student peers will be a key component of the learning environment to ensure that you can move forward in your learning.

Completion of assessment task80
Preparation for scheduled sessions54
Wider reading or practice27
Total study time188

Resources & Reading list

Mahon, A; Walshe, K. & Chambers, N. editors (2009). A Reader in Health Policy and Management. 

Buse, K; Mays, N. & Walt, G. (2012). Making Health Policy (in the "Understanding Public Health" series). 

Department of Health (2010). Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our Strategy for Public Health in England. 

Timmins, N (2012). Never Again? The Story of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. A study in coalition government and policy making. 

Ramia, G. & Farnsworth, K ‘Division and opposition: the Health and Social Care Bill 2011’ in Kilkey, M Social Policy Review 24. Analysis and debate in social policy, 2012, pp.97-114. ,0 , pp. 0.

Hudson, J. & Lowe, S. (2009). Understanding the Policy Process. 

Lister, R. (2010). Understanding Theories and Concepts in Social Policy. 

Baggott, R. (2007). Understanding Health Policy. 

Humphries, R. & Curry, N. (2011) Integrating health and social care: Where next?.

Ham, C. (2009). Health Policy in Britain. 

Goodwin, N; Smith, J; Davies, A; Perry, C; Rosen, R; Dixon, A; Dixon, J. & Ham, C. (2012). Integrated care for patients and populations: Improving outcomes by working together (report prepared for the DoH and NHS Future Forum). 

Wismar, M., Maier, C. Glinos, I., Dussault, G. and Figueras, J. (2011). Health Professional Mobility and Health Systems. 

Blank, R. (2010). Comparative health policy. 

Mays, N (2011). The English NHS as a market: challenges for the coalition government in Holden, C; Ruane, S. (2012). ,0 , pp. 0.

Walshe, K. & Smith, J. eds (2011). Healthcare Management. 

Department of Health (2009). The National Health Service Constitution. 

Klein, R. (2010). The New Politics of the NHS. 

Department of Health (2010). Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS (Cm 7881). 

Spicker, P. (2006). Policy Analysis for Practice. Applying Social Policy. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 90%
Essay plan and seminar presentation 10%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Students may wish to purchase texts to support their learning, however, the library is well stocked with suitable texts.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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