Integrating or disintegrating effects of customised care: the role of professions beyond NPM

Roy Liff (Gothenburg Research Institute, Göteborg, Sweden)
Thomas Andersson (School of Technology and Society, University of Skövde, Skövde, Sweden)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Publication date: 1 June 2011



This paper aims to describe the integrating and disintegrating effects of professional actions in customised care.


Using a qualitative case study, the authors examine the work practices and cultures of three Swedish child and adolescent psychiatric care units (CAP) charged with providing customised care in collaboration with other organisations. The authors conducted 62 interviews, made 11 half‐day observations, and shadowed employees for two days.


The social embeddedness of action is crucial to understanding the professions' integrating/disintegrating activities. In the internal social context of CAP, the professions adapt to productivity‐enhancing new public management (NPM) principles, resulting in integrating effects between the different professions and administrative management in the CAP units. However, CAP exercises professional dominance over the cooperating organisations. Thus, in the external social context, CAP's resistance to customised care principles exacerbates the disintegration problems among the different organisations.

Practical implications

The study concludes that, contrary to findings in many other studies, neither the professional logic nor NPM/customised care reforms determine the actions of professionals. In this case, the institutionalisation of some NPM methods blocks the adoption of customised care practices.


Contrary to the widely accepted idea that resource restriction is a main source of conflict between management and the professions, the professions accept and adapt to resource restrictions, even at the expense of de‐emphasising the practices of customised care. Thus, since professionals choose different operational strategies depending on the social context, the success of a normative reform measure may depend in part on its social context.



Liff, R. and Andersson, T. (2011), "Integrating or disintegrating effects of customised care: the role of professions beyond NPM", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 658-676.

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