‘I’ll tell you what suits me best if you don’t mind me saying’: ‘lay participation’ in health-care

Authors

  • Davina Allen

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Nursing, Health and Social Care Research, School of Nursing Studies, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

Centre for Nursing Research, School of Nursing Studies, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF4 5TB, UK. E-mail: <allenda@cf.ac.uk>

‘I’ll tell you what suits me best if you don’t mind me saying’: ‘lay participation’ in health-care

Increasing ‘lay participation’ in healthcare has become a popular notion in recent years and is generally considered to be a good thing in both nursing and wider policy circles. Yet despite the widespread acceptance of this overall idea, there is a dearth of theorising in this area. This has resulted in a lack of conceptual clarity which has not only hamstrung the development of empirical work in the field, but has also led to a tendency by both nurses and policy-makers to assume that greater ‘lay participation’ in health will lead to a concomitant increase in lay power vis-à-vis health professionals. The data presented in this paper indicate that this is, at best, an over-simplistic assumption and, at worst, an erroneous one. Drawing on sociological theories of the division of labour, I suggest that one way in which we might begin to clarify our thinking in this area is by differentiating between the ‘role’ and ‘task’ components of ‘lay participation’. I illustrate my argument with reference to two separate ethnographic studies undertaken between 1994 and 1998 in which participation at the level of the individual was examined.

Ancillary