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Does accountability for reasonableness work? A protocol for a mixed methods study using an audit tool to evaluate the decision-making of clinical commissioning groups in England
  1. Katharina Kieslich,
  2. Peter Littlejohns
    1. Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, Division of Health and Social Care Research, King's College London, London, UK
    1. Correspondence to Dr Katharina Kieslich; katharina.kieslich{at}


    Introduction Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England are tasked with making difficult decisions on which healthcare services to provide against the background of limited budgets. The question is how to ensure that these decisions are fair and legitimate. Accounts of what constitutes fair and legitimate priority setting in healthcare include Daniels’ and Sabin's accountability for reasonableness (A4R) and Clark's and Weale's framework for the identification of social values. This study combines these accounts and asks whether the decisions of those CCGs that adhere to elements of such accounts are perceived as fairer and more legitimate by key stakeholders. The study addresses the empirical gap arising from a lack of research on whether frameworks such as A4R hold what they promise. It aims to understand the criteria that feature in CCG decision-making. Finally, it examines the usefulness of a decision-making audit tool (DMAT) in identifying the process and content criteria that CCGs apply when making decisions.

    Methods and analysis The adherence of a sample of CCGs to criteria emerging from theories of fair priority setting will be examined using the DMAT developed by PL. The results will be triangulated with data from semistructured interviews with key stakeholders in the CCG sample to ascertain whether there is a correlation between those CCGs that performed well in the DMAT exercise and those whose decisions are perceived positively by interviewees. Descriptive statistical methods will be used to analyse the DMAT data. A combination of quantitative and qualitative content analysis methods will be used to analyse the interview transcripts.

    Ethics and dissemination Full ethics approval was received by the King's College London Biomedical Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine and Natural and Mathematical Sciences Research Ethics Subcommittee. The results of the study will be disseminated through publications in peer review journals.


    This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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