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Transforming general practice: The redistribution of medical work in primary care

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Carl May


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The paper focuses on the redistribution of medical work within primary health care teams. It reports the results of the analysis of interviews with general practitioners, practice nurses and managers, undertaken as part of an ethnographic study of primary care organisation and practice during a period of rapid organisational change. By examining the ways in which the respondents account for how work is being redefined and redistributed, we explore how current government policy and professional discourses combine to reconfigure both the identities of those who work in primary care and the nature of patienthood. In particular, we show how general practitioners are being reconfigured as medical specialists or consultants in ways that seem to depart radically from earlier claims that general practice is a distinctive field of social or biographical medicine. Within this new discourse medical work is distributed between doctors, nurses and unqualified staff in ways which make explicit the reduction of general practice work to sets of biomedical problems or tasks. At the same time, the devolution of much general practice work to less qualified and cheaper personnel is justified by drawing on a discourse of person-centred medicine.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Charles-Jones H, Latimer J, May C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociology of Health and Illness

Year: 2003

Volume: 25

Issue: 1

Pages: 71-92

Print publication date: 01/01/2003

ISSN (print): 0141-9889

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing


DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.t01-1-00325

PubMed id: 14498945


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