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Purpose: In this viewpoint article, the authors consider the challenges in implementing restrictive policies, with a particular focus on how these policies are experienced, in practice, from alternative standpoints. Design/methodology/approach: The authors draw on social science studies of decommissioning work to highlight how patient and official versions of value often vary, creating difficulties and distrust as restrictive policies are implemented. Patients and the public are well aware that financial calculations are somehow embedded in concepts of “evidence” and “value” but are usually unfamiliar with the social infrastructures that produce and utilise such concepts. The authors discuss with reference to a contemporary restrictive programme in England. Findings: While policymakers and researchers frequently present restrictive policies as “win-win” scenarios (achieving both cost-savings for healthcare services and improved patient care), social science analyses highlight the potential for tensions and controversies between stakeholders. The authors recognise that cost containment is a necessary component of policymaking work but argue that policymakers and researchers should seek to map (and make visible) the socially organised reasoning, systems and processes that are involved in enacting restrictive policies. Although transparency may pose challenges, it is important for informed democratic engagement, allowing legitimate scrutiny of whose voices are being heard and interests served (the “winners” and “losers”). Originality/value: The authors argue for social science analyses that explore overuse, value and restrictive practices from alternative (e.g. patient) standpoints. These can provide important insights to help identify priorities for intervention and support better communication.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Health Organization and Management

Publication Date





378 - 384