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 The competitive edge: Dietary competition played a key role in the evolution of early primates
01.08.2018 | Grand Valley State University

nachricht Diversity and education influence India’s population growth
31.07.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Staying in Shape

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Diving robots find Antarctic seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide in winter

16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Protein droplets keep neurons at the ready and immune system in balance

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>