To read this content please select one of the options below:

A sociological ethnographic study of clinical governance implementation in one NHS Hospital Trust

Karen Staniland (University of Salford, Salford, UK)

Clinical Governance: An International Journal

ISSN: 1477-7274

Article publication date: 16 October 2009




This study aims to give an account of how stakeholders in one NHS Hospital Trust responded to the clinical governance initiative, the effects on quality improvement and the practical accomplishment of legitimacy.


Sociological new institutionalism theory was utilised to explain the political and ceremonial conformity that marked the clinical governance process. A case study was employed using ethnographic methods. The qualitative data were obtained by documentary analysis, observation of meetings and ward activity and 28 semi‐structured interviews. A grounded theory approach was adopted in the analysis of the interviews.


Errors and inconsistencies were found in Trust documentation and reporting systems were poor. In practice clinical governance was inadequately understood and the corporate goals not shared. Nevertheless, during the same period the Trust obtained recognition for having appropriate structures and systems in place resulting in external legitimacy.

Research limitations/implications

The results only relate to the Trust considered but the study has identified that, although the organization responded to isomorphic governmental pressures in the production of appropriate institutional documentation, the impact of clinical governance to improve the quality in practice was found to be inconsistent.

Practical implications

The Trust promoted and endorsed clinical governance success but the lack of organizational processes and knowledge management equally promoted its failure by denying the resources to implement the desired actions.


Whilst the study identified that clinical governance had been a “ceremonial success”, it is argued that the practical accomplishment in the improvement of quality of care for patients will remain a paper exercise until organizational and practice issues are addressed.



Staniland, K. (2009), "A sociological ethnographic study of clinical governance implementation in one NHS Hospital Trust", Clinical Governance: An International Journal, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 271-280.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles