A case for dialogic practice : a reconceptualisation of ‘inappropriate’ demand for and organisation of out of hours general practice services for children under five
The recent expansion of general practitioner (GP) out of hours cooperatives indicates that many British GPs see this as the solution to managing out of hours work, particularly the 'problem' of 'inappropriate' demand. This thesis investigates the highly contentious subject of 'inappropriateness' of demand for out of hours GP services for children under five, and develops a methodology that allows for a reconceptualisation of the issues involved based on the beliefs, assumptions and practices of all those concerned, rather than locating the 'problem' within the province of parents alone, or within the doctor-patient relationship as a bounded system. Using a predominantly sociological and anthropological conceptual framework, the thesis draws on a synthesis of views and practice, bringing those of professionals and parents together with fieldwork observations based in the primary care centre setting. It suggests that contrary to talk about management of the 'problem' in technical, bureaucratic and medical terms, this becomes a moral issue in practice. Scientific or organisational imperatives disguise largely moral proscriptions and examples illustrate ways in which moral and emotional dimensions embedded within these social relations can conflict with particular forms of rationality. The analysis shows how organisational initiatives that fail to take account of such moral frameworks can produce unexpected and unintended consequences. The thesis illustrates the value of what is described as a dialogic process, taking account of the fluidity between voices, layers of time and space, and interchange between researcher, participants, and future audiences. The play of these issues in the rapid and extensive growth of cooperatives is discussed in the wider context of the rhetoric of consumerism and shifts in interprofessional practices and relationships. Negotiation of 'appropriate' supply of and demand for out of hours services has had a major impact on government initiatives for primary care as a whole. Thus key elements in the formation of cooperatives, originally targeted at a more narrow conceptualisation of problems, can be seen as expressing a deeper impetus for change, and serving as vehicles for more fundamental and rapid development.