Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Citizen Consumers? Using Public Services is Not Like Shopping

06.02.2006


The government’s new white paper on health seems to suggest that patients should be offered more choice. However, visiting the doctor or phoning the police is simply not like shopping, according to people questioned for a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which found that most of us reject the trend towards treating everyone as ‘consumers’.



We see public services as different from the market-place and value their ‘publicness’, according to the project led by Professor John Clarke of the Open University, Milton Keynes.

The study – part of the joint ESRC and Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Cultures of Consumption programme – gathered the views of people in two urban areas – one in the North-West and the other in the South-East. It involved managers, front line staff and users of health, police and social care services in both places.


Professor Clarke said:“The idea that people expect to be treated as consumers by public services has become a central theme in public service reform under New Labour.

Our research explored what people who provide and use public services thought about this idea, and the changes it is bringing about.

“We found that people have many relationships with public services. They are citizens, experts, taxpayers and voters as well as users, and they see themselves as part of wider bodies – as members of the public or local communities.

“When people approach health, police or social agencies, they do not always know what they want. They hope to meet staff who will respect them and help them make important decisions.”

According to the report, more than half of staff and those using the services saw the relationship as being members of the local community or the wider public. Around one third regarded people as service users.

While many preferred terms such as service user or patient, fewer than one in five thought of them as consumers or customers.

The findings support the idea that people are becoming more assertive in their relationships with public services – less deferential and more willing to express their needs and to challenge providers. And they illustrate the many ways in which service providers are responding to this shift, helping users know more about decisions, and to be involved.

Professor Clarke said: “Our findings show that both providers and users consistently view public services as different from commercial transactions, insisting that the process is ‘not like shopping’.

“This phrase was used repeatedly in the interviews. It captures the view of the people we met that public services are, and should be, centred on ongoing, personal relationships, rather than being anonymous, one-off transactions.”

The report argues that this does not mean people are uncritical. Many want improvements but have mixed views about whether consumerism and consumer choice can deliver better services.

When it came to the prospect of more choice, users were more positive than providers about likely benefits, with the police staff expressing the greatest concern about its impact. However, users also worried that increased choice and voice for users would give an advantage to those best able to work the system, or with the loudest voices.

They wanted to deal with skilled people they could trust, and for services to provide reliable and high quality assistance, attention and support at points of crisis or difficulty in their lives.

Alexandra Saxon | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

nachricht Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US
01.12.2016 | Dartmouth College

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>