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‘Best buys’ for surgery in South Africa

T Wilkinson
M Smith
A Kinghorn
KJ Hofman


Improving access to basic surgical interventions has great potential to improve the length and quality of life of many people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, research has shown that current access to surgical interventions is limited, and initiatives such as the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery 2030 advocate for improved access to basic surgical interventions for all. As the needs, health system context and available budgets in each country will be different, a critical component of effective local scale-up of surgical interventions will be to use tools and processes of health technology assessment (HTA). HTA has traditionally been used in high-income countries to make decisions about which medicines and devices should be available in a health system, but its central concepts, such as assessing clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and feasibility, appraising all available evidence, and incorporating wider health systems objectives in decision-making, can be applied to decisons about how LMICs can best utilise basic surgical interventions from within available resources – in essence, to focus spending on the ‘best buys’. As South Africa (SA) moves towards National Health Insurance (NHI), HTA functions will be strengthened. There is potential for SA to lead the practice of application of HTA to decisions about how basic surgical interventions are chosen and implemented, contributing to the success and sustainability of NHI in SA and the health of people in LMICs worldwide.

S Afr Med J 2017;107(10):832-835

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-5135
print ISSN: 0256-9574