Short

A notional period in which some but not all inputs or factors of production are treated as variable. The ones treated as fixed may not necessarily be literally fixed in any technological sense (for example, the organization may be bound by a contract not to vary them). A dramatic example (not from health care) of a factor of production that might appear to be quite decidedly

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technologically 'fixed' - but was not - comes from railway history. When the English Great Western Railway's old broad gauge track was changed to the modern standard narrow gauge in 1892, the entire stretch of 213 miles from Exeter to Penzance was changed in one weekend. Moreover 177 miles of this had to be altered from the old longitudinal timbers to the modern cross-sleepers (ties). Of course, it took an army of platelayers to do it - 4200 of them. The point is that almost anything is possible given sufficient resources. The key issue is what is chosen or assumed to be fixed for the purposes of the particular question being addressed. See Time.

In general, the faster one seeks to make any change in input use, the more costly such changes will be. Some inputs are costlier, for many reasons, than others to alter and those that are costliest will tend to number amongst those most frequently treated as fixed. The real point, however, is that what to treat as fixed and what variable is itself a choice problem and any decision about this will restrict the scope of inputs to be considered variable. See Long Run.

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