‘It is still coming from the centre and coming out’: The material conditions adding to over‐bureaucratised patient and public involvement for commissioning health and care in England

Debbie Hatfield, Kay Aranda, Gordon Ferns, Breda Flaherty, Angie Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To understand how materiality affects patient and public involvement (PPI) for commissioning and leading health and care services in the English National Health Service (NHS) context. Context: From April 2013 groups of general practitioners (GPs) became members of NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to assess needs and procure core health services for and with local communities. Since July 2022, integrated care systems (ICSs) have subsumed this responsibility. NHS reorganisations have been driven by the promise of more effective and efficient health care and have led to a long history of PPI on economic, political, and moral grounds. Few studies researching PPI in clinical commissioning exist and fewer still have explored a more agentic understanding of materiality and its impact on PPI. Study Design: A focused ethnography was used to examine PPI for clinical commissioning within two CCG case study sites in England. Three CCG Governing Body lay representatives, nine GP commissioners and seven service user representatives took part in focus groups and/or were interviewed. Fifteen nonparticipant observations were also carried out at CCG meetings and the associated materiality was examined. Findings: The materiality of activities involved in clinical commissioning influences and shapes the nature of PPI. These forms of materiality may dilute and subvert meaningful engagement and involvement that relies on trust, leadership, learning, and partnership working. Conclusion: System leaders in ICSs should consider the significance of materiality in centrally driven processes involved in PPI commissioning to reduce barriers and ensure meaningful partnerships within local communities. Patient and Public Contribution: The study design ensured PPI throughout the research process in keeping with contemporary research practice guidance. The project steering committee included service users with current or recent PPI clinical commissioning experience outside of the study sites. There was PPI involvement in the original study proposal and its development including the bid for doctoral funds on which this study is based. All were involved in assessing the rigour of the data collection, interpretation of the findings and ensuring the project remained true to the aims of the study. Two members have also participated in presentation of the study findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1636-1647
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
DH was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Brighton funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The research study was a PhD project at Brighton and Sussex Medical School sponsored by the former Higher Education Academy now known as Advance HE.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Health Expectations published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • clinical commissioning
  • leadership
  • materiality
  • partnership
  • patient and public involvement (PPI)
  • service users


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