Control, Participation, and the British National Health Service

The experience of Britain’s National Health Service since 1948 suggests that there is a conflict between different social values and policy aims, and that progress toward achieving more community or worker control is constrained by the pursuit of other desired objectives. The egalitarian ideology of the NHS emphasizes central control to achieve a nationally equitable distribution of resources. Emphasis on coordination between the NHS and other social services limits freedom of action. Democracy as accountable policy-making on a national scale may therefore be incompatible with democracy as direct control, whether by community or workers. To encourage participation means accepting diversity in the provision of health care and the multiplication of small, self-governing units. Similarly, worker control is professional autonomy writ large and may therefore conflict with community control.

Author(s): Rudolf Klein

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Volume 57, Issue 1 (pages 70–94)
Published in 1979