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Alternative futures for health economics: implications for nursing management

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mannion r.,small n. & thompson c. (2005) Journal of Nursing Management13, 377–386

Alternative futures for health economics: implications for nursing management

As nursing has been subject to successive waves of ‘managerialism’ there has been a drive on the part of government and elements within the profession to enhance the science base and promote cost-effective health care interventions. This has generated new interest in the ‘economics of nursing’ as efficiency and ‘value for money’ are viewed as necessary precondition for the provision of a high quality nursing service. As an academic subject health economics has brought an elegant set of theories to bear on the topic of health and health care. However, mainstream health economics is premised on a series of simplifying assumptions that, if applied uncritically, can induce a range of unintended and adverse consequences.

This paper asks how ideas developed in one sphere (health economics) can be become influential in another (nursing management and practice) and it seeks explanations in the theories of Michel Foucault, specifically in his exploration of the reciprocal relationship between power and knowledge. How are our assumptions about what is possible and desirable shaped, how far do mechanisms of surveillance and self-subjugation extend?

A range of alternative economic approaches have been developed which challenge many mainstream health economics assumptions. Some of these are better suited to the complex social environment present within health care. Nurses, nurse managers and researchers should question the assumptions of dominant economic models and explore a range of economic frameworks when planning services and evaluating their practice.
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Keywords: Foucault; health economics; nursing; risk society; unintended consequences

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Health Economics, University of York, York 2: Professor of Community and Primary Care, School of Health Studies, University of Bradford, Bradford 3: Senior Lecturer, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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