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This is our first overview of the Public Services Programme’s findings. It is a brief introductory overview that highlights some important discoveries and the synergies of our research; you can find more detailed information elewhere on this website, notably on the Research Projects pages. The text below was originally designed for a poster, which you can download as a pdf version.

To read the graphs and figures click on the thumbnail and a larger picture will appear.

Why Research Public Service Performance?

» It’s socially important
? Public services are central to the politics of modern democracies.
? Everyone wants good public services but what counts as ‘good’ is contested and so are reform recipes.

Health Expenditure and Life Expectancy» It’s intriguing
? We can fill gaps and resolve contradictions (for instance different claims about what the public knows/wants/thinks).
? We can explore paradoxes and unexpected effects or relationships (see graph).

» Its ‘doable’? ‘Politics is the art of the possible, research is the art of the soluble’.
? Not all questions about public service performance are researchable, but some important ones are. That’s what we focus on.

What are we trying to find out?

Blackpool RockLike the letters in a stick of rock, the theme of ‘performance’ in public services runs through everything we do. Questions we are asking include:

» who sees what as public services, who values what kind of performance, and who thinks what kind of measures (such as choice) lead to good or bad performance?

» what are the effects of reforms intended to affect performance, like targets, transparency, incentive-based contracts?

» what are the scope and limits of different kinds of performance metrics and what intended and unintended effects do they have?

» what can we learn about performance by tracing developments over time, by comparing experience across the UK and by comparing the UK with other countries?

Who are we and how do we work?

Researcher Disciplines

Who we are: a mix of disciplines

The Programme brings together around 100 researcher from a multiude of disciplines (see graph).

Researcher Locations

Where we are: across the UK

We are spread throughout the UK in 28 cities – from Exeter to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, Cardiff in Wales, Belfast in Northern Ireland and Strathclyde to Aberdeen in Scotland to name just a few (see map).


‘The way that we do it…’

Our researchers use a wide array of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, as this table shows.

More than the sum or our parts?

Neural NetworkGantt ChartIn the same way that neurons connect to produce the brain’s exquisite functionality, the Programme’s three elements – funded research projects, sponsored events and networking activities – coalesce in dynamic ways such that the whole equals more than the sum of its parts. Click on the gantt chart (right) to see an overview of our activities.

What are our discoveries

» What we’ve found out about beliefs, knowledge and attitudes
? how far choice (switching providers) comes at the expense of voice (participation) in local authority services
? how satisfaction with local authority services relates to the expectations people have of those services

Performance Measures Graph» What we’ve found out about performance measures
? how valid and reliable composite performance indicators are for ranking and rating public services (example: how far composite hospital rankings alter when we make small changes to the weightings of individual items)
? how much difference ‘target and terror systems’ make to performance in health care (comparing Scottish and English waiting list data since 2001)

» What we’ve found out about incentives
Head-teacher Pay Graph? the strength as well as the direction of some key incentives (example: how much more work do dentists do when they are paid on fee for service rather than on salary?)
? the unintended or unanticipated effects of some incentive systems in public services (example: what happens when hospitals are given the power to fine social services departments for not finding places for bed-blockers?)

…and what we expect to find out
? how far public attitudes to the management of public services in the four parts of the UK reflect the policies of the different governments
Rail Speeds Graph ? how litigation relates to the quality of local authority services
? how train speeds have changed over 50 major rail journeys in the UK over 150 years, and what affects changes in train speeds
? how we can assess risks of poor performance by doctors, and more…

Neural network and Blackpool rock photos sourced from: Mark Miller: and respectively.