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Home » Research Projects » An Exploratory Study of Parliamentarians and their Use of Healthcare Performance Metrics: The Scottish Parliament Health and Community Care Committee

'Politics by Numbers'

How parliamentarians use healthcare performance metrics

Sets of numbers purporting to represent the performance of public services are much prevalent in current politics. With incumbent governments eager to trumpet the success of their initiatives when metrics show performance improvements and opposition parties equally quick to jump on every missed target as a chance to attack the government, benchmarks, league tables and performance targets have become a staple of media discussions. But how often are public service performance metrics used for more than just propaganda and political point-scoring? How many performance metrics are produced for their own sake and then never used by anyone other than auditors and accountants? How far do politicians use metrics constructively, to monitor current services and inform parliamentary debate on how to make good decisions about provision of future services and safeguarding the public? Gordon Marnoch is looking at the surprisingly little explored question of how elected politicians use public service performance metrics, taking the case of the Scottish Parliament and healthcare performance metrics.

What the research means for policymakers and the wider community

This will be one of the first studies to show when, why and how politicians use performance metrics. What is discovered about such behaviours’ in the Scottish Parliament may be applicable to other legislatures in different countries too.

Research methods

Research details

The project, ‘An Exploratory Study of Parliamentarians and their Use of Healthcare Performance Metrics: The Scottish Parliament Health and Community Care Committee’, runs from 1 February 2008 until October 2008.

Project Outputs

Project Poster 2009

Programme Discussion Paper 0809: A Review of Empirical Research on Politicians’ Behaviour as End-users of Performance Metrics

Programme Discussion Paper 0810: The Performance Metrics Boom and Parliamentary

Research Team

Gordon Marnoch (University of Ulster)

Gordon Marnoch is a Reader in Public Policy at the School of Policy Studies, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. He was previously a lecturer in the Department of Management Studies at the University of Aberdeen. He has been involved in health services management research, consultancy and teaching since the mid- 1980s. As a former advisor to The Scottish Parliament Health and Community Care Committee (1999-2001) he is well placed to carry out this research.

Email: gj.marnoch@ulster.ac.uk