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Public service restructuring in the UK: the case of the English National Health Service


Correspondence should be addressed to: Stephanie Tailby, University of the West of England, Bristol, Coldharbour Lane, Frenchay, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK; email:


This article overviews welfare state retrenchment in the UK under the Conservative-led coalition government that formed in May 2010 and has centred its response to economic crisis on rapid public deficit reduction through public expenditure austerity targeted increasingly on the welfare benefits budget. It locates the coalition's reforms of public services and public sector employment relations in the long trajectory of public sector restructuring in the UK: the policies of New Right governments in the 1980s and New Labour from 1997 to 2010 that installed marketisation and privatisation in a permutation of forms, intensifying challenges for trade union organising. Focusing on the English NHS, the article identifies the respects in which the coalition's reforms continue and depart from New Labour's.