• Public consultation;
  • User consultation;
  • Legitimation;
  • Health care politics

This paper concerns two practices, public consultation and user involvement, whose adoption has been urged upon the UK National Health Service in recent years. Public consultation is a local attempt to seek the views of a broad constituency of persons. User involvement is a local attempt to include organized groups of service users in the planning, and occasionally the management, of such services. The paper has four objectives. First, it locates the topic in the context of several related current debates. Second, it outlines the main findings of a recent empirical study of public consultation as they relate to the above debates. Third, it summarizes the relevant findings of an empirical study of user involvement. Finally, it examines these two practices as “technologies of legitimation” which can be seen as a means by which managerial legitimacy is maintained in the context of an increasingly pluralistic policy arena.