The Insecure Attachment of the Organization Theorist: Present Day and Past Responses to Health Care Scandals in the NHS

Anne Roelsgaard Obling

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In this paper I present a dramatic health care system collapse and scandal in the UK. I analyse the story about appalling suffering of a large amount of patients at Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust between 2005 and 2008, and the subsequent public inquiry in 2013 of the Stafford hospital and the trust’s professional staff and directors. On this background, I discuss present day response to the scandal and show how this response departures from a preoccupation with operational truths, such as world-class management, regulatory transparency and openness, and culture of compassion. I argue that organization studies and work that critically reflect upon the context in which clinical malpractice occurs have been largely absent from this discussion. This is peculiar since the scandal seems to be an open invitation to organization theory and organization concepts to take on a life and role in the discussion. In addition to this, I argue, the scandal invites organization theorists to contribute to a discussion of how we choose to organize treatment and care of vulnerable citizens in our society. To follow this line of thought, I revisit the work of Isabel Menzies Lyth (1959, 1988) and central analyses of The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (Jaques, 1951; Trist and Bamforth, 1951; Rice, 1958; Winnicott, 1958). I scrutinize whether, in light of the hospital scandal and the numerous failures of care, these classical endeavours add something to present day theorizing on organizations and how we think about and approach the activities and relations of organisations. To conclude, I argue that classical organization theory in the early Tavistock tradition provides us with old-new ways of thinking about and acting upon contemporary scandals in the NHS.
StatusUdgivet - 2014
BegivenhedXVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology 2014: Facing an Unequal World: Challenges for Global Sociology - Yokohama, Japan
Varighed: 13 jul. 201419 jul. 2014
Konferencens nummer: 18


KonferenceXVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology 2014


  • Scandals
  • NHS
  • Isabel Menzies Lyth
  • Tavistock Institute of Human Relations