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Int J Health Serv. 2008;38(4):751-71.

Community involvement in hospital governance in Britain: evidence from before the National Health Service.

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Centre for History in Public Health, Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom.


An important goal of policy in the British National Health Service (NHS) is to increase public involvement in health care governance. In the hospital sector this led in 2003 to the establishment of foundation trusts with "membership communities," which aim to give local citizens a say in management. This is not the first attempt to introduce greater community participation in the running of British hospitals. Prior to the inception of the NHS in 1948, the hospital contributory scheme movement provided ordinary members of the public with the opportunity to sit on hospital management boards. The article examines the nature and extent of this earlier experiment with local democracy in hospital governance. It argues that historical precedent is not particularly encouraging, either for the prospect of broadening popular participation or for making services more responsive to local needs. Although today's context is very different, the tendency for managerial and professional interests to dominate the policy arena is a feature of both periods.

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