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Who do we think we are? Analysing the content and form of identity work in the English National Health Service

Imelda McDermott (Health Policy, Politics and Organisation (HiPPO) Research Group, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Kath Checkland (Health Policy, Politics and Organisation (HiPPO) Research Group, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Stephen Harrison (Health Policy, Politics and Organisation (HiPPO) Research Group, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Stephanie Snow (Health Policy, Politics and Organisation (HiPPO) Research Group and Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Anna Coleman (Health Policy, Politics and Organisation (HiPPO) Research Group, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 15 March 2013

776

Abstract

Purpose

The language used by National Health Service (NHS) “commissioning” managers when discussing their roles and responsibilities can be seen as a manifestation of “identity work”, defined as a process of identifying. This paper aims to offer a novel approach to analysing “identity work” by triangulation of multiple analytical methods, combining analysis of the content of text with analysis of its form.

Design/methodology/approach

Fairclough's discourse analytic methodology is used as a framework. Following Fairclough, the authors use analytical methods associated with Halliday's systemic functional linguistics.

Findings

While analysis of the content of interviews provides some information about NHS Commissioners' perceptions of their roles and responsibilities, analysis of the form of discourse that they use provides a more detailed and nuanced view. Overall, the authors found that commissioning managers have a higher level of certainty about what commissioning is not rather than what commissioning is; GP managers have a high level of certainty of their identity as a GP rather than as a manager; and both GP managers and non‐GP managers oscillate between multiple identities depending on the different situations they are in.

Originality/value

This paper offers a novel approach to triangulation, based not on the usual comparison of multiple data sources, but rather based on the application of multiple analytical methods to a single source of data. This paper also shows the latent uncertainty about the nature of commissioning enterprise in the English NHS.

Keywords

Citation

McDermott, I., Checkland, K., Harrison, S., Snow, S. and Coleman, A. (2013), "Who do we think we are? Analysing the content and form of identity work in the English National Health Service", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 4-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777261311311771

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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