Education And Debate

The new zealand priority criteria project. part 2: coronary artery bypass graft surgery

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 11 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:135
  1. David C Hadorna, manager, special projects,
  2. Andrew C Holmesa, senior medical adviser
  1. a National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability Ministry of Health Wellington New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Hadorn
  • Accepted 16 October 1996


Priority criteria developed during a national project were used to conduct an audit of all 662 patients on waiting lists for coronary artery bypass surgery in New Zealand during spring 1996. Based on the observed distribution of priority scores, the cost of providing surgery to all patients down to various levels of priority was estimated. Descriptions incorporating life expectancy and quality of life implications of surgery were developed of the kinds of patients who would or would not receive surgery at each of several possible funding levels. Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons agreed that a threshold of 25 points was a reasonable clinical goal but to work with a threshold of 35, which can be sustained with current levels of funding. All agree that the gap between these clinically preferred and currently afforded thresholds is a subject for wider societal dialogue and decision. The ability to measure the size of the gap between clinical desirability and financial sustainability provides a new transparency to the problem of healthcare resource allocation.


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