Top-down policy directives, such as targets and their associated protocols, may be driven politically rather than clinically and can be described as macro-political texts. While targets supposedly provide incentives for healthcare services, they may unintentionally shape practices of accommodation rather than implementation, deflecting practitioners from providing optimal care. Live work activities were observed for two six months periods in a UK NHS Emergency Department and a Mental Health Ward using video and field notes ethnography, with post hoc unstructured interviews for clarification and verification. Sixty-four practitioners were consented. Data were treated as narratives, analysed thematically and theorised using cultural-historical activity theory. The ideal text of patient-centred team working shaped by top-down, politically inspired targets was disrupted, where targets produced unintended consequences. Bottom-up strategies of making meaning of targets in a local context generated sub-texts of resistance, rationalization, and even duplicity that had paradoxical positive effects in generating collaboration and democratic habits. Throughput pressures generated both cross-team conflicts and intra-team identification. What practitioners actually do to make sense of top-down directives is not the same as the ideal expectation framed by targets. Team members pulled together not because of targets but in spite of them, and as a form of resistance to governance. Targets produce unnecessary stress as team members focus on throughput rather than quality of care. Those governing healthcare must look at the unintended consequences of targets.
Disclaimer: I am unable to share the full article, but if you have access to PubMed, I highly suggest that you take a look. The full article can be accessed here, or through your journal provider.