The health care systems of the United States and the United Kingdom are changing rapidly. After the Thatcher government’s 1989 white paper, the formerly unified British National Health Service (NHS) was split into purchaser and provider sides, with the NHS District Health Authorities becoming purchasers, and the NHS hospitals, now reconstructed as independent NHS trusts, becoming providers. The U.S. health care system, driven by market forces rather than government fiat, has been moving rapidly toward integration, with increasingly formalized purchaser and provider relationships. Contracts are found at the purchaser/provider interface in both systems. We reviewed American and British purchaser/provider contracts. The contracts address similar issues but often take disparate approaches. These dissimilarities illuminate the profound, continuing differences between the two systems. They also, however, offer possibilities to transfer contracting “technology” between the two contracting cultures.

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