Persuasion without numbers?: Public policy and the justification of capital charging in NHS trust hospitals
Using the example of capital charging in UK hospitals, this paper shows how new public policy initiatives are justified through forms of persuasion without numbers and can be challenged with empirics. A reading of official and academic texts shows how the official problem definition focuses on poor asset utilisation. Hospital accounts are then reworked to show that, although poor asset utilisation was never a major problem, the introduction of capital charges could disrupt service provision. The conclusion is that the operation of NHS hospitals should be understood in terms of distributive conflict, rather than inefficiency. Through practical demonstration, the authors of this article aim to encourage accounting researchers to use numbers to challenge public policy definitions.