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TO OPERATE OR NOT TO OPERATE – THE ECONOMICS OF SURGERY

The best surgeons know when not to perform a surgical procedure if the benefit of the treatment is too small to outweigh the potential harm which could be done.

If we elevate this principle from the individual patient to all patients in the NHS, knowing the sacrifices to be made, by deciding to undertake a specific surgical intervention, is crucial to ensure the fair and equitable allocation of healthcare resources.

Health economic evaluation provides a vehicle for understanding these opportunity costs and weighing them up against the benefits to be generated for the health of all citizens.

While we cannot expect surgeons to perform a health economic evaluation every time, having an understanding of the consequences of their professional choices will contribute to better decision making and knowing when not to operate.

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