Article ID: CBB432541042

Why the History of Public Consultation Matters for Contemporary Health Policy (2018)


Contemporary policy debates construct public involvement in England’s National Health Service as “new,” or as a practice dating back only as far as the 1990s. This article argues that the longer historical contexts of such consultative practice matter, and it explores various and shifting manifestations of “consultation” in the NHS from the foundation of the Service in 1948. In doing so, it first demonstrates that consultation has always been a part of the theory and practice of postwar health policy. Thinking about consultation as “new” presents such practice as unnecessary or transient, and may function as part of a damaging political vision of public affection for the NHS as a barrier to reform. Second, the article asserts that public interest in shaping NHS practice and policy has never been fully satisfied by official consultative mechanisms. “The public” is not a homogeneous group, but rather composed of various groups, communities, and individuals with rich perspectives and histories to share, having experienced the NHS as patients, friends, supporters, staff, and volunteers. Policy-makers should approach diverse publics as partners, and should meaningfully listen to protests around NHS reform, which often reflect public investment in the NHS, as well as valid concerns about how particular communities will be able to access health care. While the political will for such engagement has varied over time, individual politicians and local-level health agencies can make a difference by supporting, engaging with, and funding organizations which represent and empower a diverse range of communities: such groups have always, and will continue to play, a significant role in shaping NHS debate and care.

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Authors & Contributors
Gorsky, Martin
Sheard, Sally
Durbach, Nadja
Seaton, Andrew
Hardy, Anne Irmgard
Wright, David
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Social History of Medicine
Twentieth-Century British History
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Journal of Medical Biography
Johns Hopkins University
New York University
Public health
Medicine and society
Health care
Medicine and government
Medicine and politics
Murray, David Stark
Bevin, Aneurin
Great Britain
Manchester (England)
United States
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, late
18th century
20th century, early
National Health Service (Great Britain)
Rockefeller Foundation

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