This paper is concerned with strategic planning in the public services, in particular that sector where no market price exists and where the community expresses some demands. The National Health Service, the Social Services, Education Authorities or Local Authorities are examples. Because the consumer does not directly pay for the service at the point of consumption, demand cannot be expressed in monetary terms. The supply of services is some reflection of community need tempered by its willingness to provide the resources of people, equipment, facilities and money to satisfy that need. Strategic planning or policy making is a complex not to say emotive process, because no obvious measure of success or of community satisfaction exists. It is often difficult to measure satisfaction of a single need, let alone define a policy which “best” satisfies the conglomerate of often conflicting community needs. Nevertheless, this is the task confronting policy makers in the public sector services. The quantity and allocation of these services are not usually directly determined by the community itself but by some section of the community; commonly politicians, economists, planners and occasionally representatives of the community. Within these planning bodies each individual conception of the “best” policy is in conflict with all others. It is not possible to resolve this conflict by deriving a policy which maximises the satisfaction and, hence, minimising the regret of the policy making body. Yet a compromise, or at least a single, policy must be reached. The aim of this paper is to suggest a method of arriving at the most acceptable single policy without making assumptions or deriving definitions of where that compromise ought to lie given the initial postures of the policy makers. The paper is in two sections. The first describes the method in general terms. The second demonstrates, through a small model of the maternity services, its use in practice. The community or surrogate of the community is referred to throughout as the decision makers, policy makers or planning body.
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