Handbook of Innovation in Public Services
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Handbook of Innovation in Public Services

Edited by Stephen P. Osborne and Louise Brown

Leading researchers from across the globe review the state of the art in research on innovation in public services, providing an overview of key issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Topics explored include: context for innovation in public services and public service reform; managerial change challenges; ICT and e-government; and collaboration and networks. The theory is underpinned by seven wide-ranging case studies of innovation in practice.
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Chapter 32: NHS Direct: a UK health sector innovation study

Paul Cunningham


This chapter provides an empirical case study of innovation in the public health sector, namely the introduction of NHS Direct in the United Kingdom. Although almost 15 years have passed since its introduction, it offers a number of common themes by which the process of public sector innovation may be contextualised. However, the chapter does not set out to evaluate the effectiveness or impact of the scheme. It concludes with a number of generic lessons which may have broader application to the management of innovation in the public sector. The material for this chapter was collected in the context of the European Commission-funded PUBLIN study (2005–06), which examined the commonalities between public and private sector innovation. Analysis of the case studies (in the health and social sectors) carried out under PUBLIN necessitated the development of a set of drivers, barriers and facilitators (or shaping factors) as a broad analytical framework. Thus the approach, while not exactly ‘grounded theory’, was equally not a further development of an established approach. This is not to say that alternative frameworks – such as Sabatier’s advocacy coalition framework (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993, 1999) or the work of Geels (2004) on sociotechnical systems – are not relevant to public sector innovation: innovation processes are multifaceted as well as diverse, and research studies are confronted with choices as to what to focus on.

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