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Public service agreements (PSAs)

December 1998

The government unexpectedly introduced public service agreements (PSAs) as part of the comprehensive spending review in 1998.

The Treasury explained that increased investment in public services needed to be linked to modernisation and reform, and published a range of government objectives and measurable targets as part of the new PSAs.

Targets were aimed at achieving Labour's key manifesto pledges on service standards, including 'to cut NHS waiting lists by 100,000 over the lifetime of the Parliament and to deliver a consequential reduction in average waiting times,' and added new targets for improvement, including 'a reduction in premature deaths and avoidable illness, disease and injury, and a reduction in inequalities in health.'

To these ends, the 1998 PSAs included cancer referral targets and population outcome measures (such as the numbers of deaths attributable to cancer for those under the age of 65).

In 2010, PSAs were abolished under the coalition government.


Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Public Services for the Future: Modernisation, Reform, Accountability
Comprehensive Spending Review: Public Service Agreements 1999-2002.

HMSO; 1998.