Representing Whom? U.K. Health Consumer and Patients’ Organizations in the Policy Process
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This paper draws on nearly two decades of research on health consumer and patients’ organizations (HCPOs) in the United Kingdom. In particular, it addresses questions of representation and legitimacy in the health policy process. HCPOs claim to represent the collective interests of patients and others such as relatives and carers. At times they also make claims to represent the wider public interest. Employing Pitkin’s classic typology of formalistic, descriptive, symbolic, and substantive representation, the paper explores how and in what sense HCPOs represent their constituencies. We found that policymakers themselves are less concerned with formal mechanisms adopted by groups and are more concerned with credibility, in particular whether HCPOs carry the confidence of their constituents. While some concerns about legitimacy remain, particularly in relation to funding from commercial interests, we argue that HCPOs bring a unique perspective to the policy process and to focus purely on formalistic representation provides only a partial understanding of their representative role and a constrained view of their collective moral claims.
KeywordsRepresentation Health consumer and patients’ organizations Health policymaking
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