Medicine and management in European hospitals: a comparative overview

Ian Kirkpatrick*, Ellen Kuhlmann, Kathy Hartley, Mike Dent, Federico Lega

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Since the early 1980s all European countries have given priority to reforming the management of health services. A distinctive feature of these reforms has also been the drive to co-opt professionals themselves into the management of services, taking on full time or part time (hybrid) management or leadership roles. However, although these trends are well documented in the literature, our understanding of the nature and impact of reforms and how they are re-shaping the relationship between medicine and management remains limited. Most studies have tended to be nationally specific, located within a single discipline and focused primarily on describing new management practices. This article serves as an Introduction to a special issue of BMC Health Services Research which seeks to address these concerns. It builds on the work of a European Union funded COST Action (ISO903) which ran between 2009 and 2013, focusing specifically on the changing relationship between medicine and management in a European context. Main text: Prior to describing the contributions to the special issue, this Introduction sets the scene by exploring four main questions which have characterised much of the recent literature on medicine and management. First is the question of what we understand by the changing relationship between medicine and management and in particular which this means for the emergence of so called 'hybrid' clinical leader roles? A second question concerns the forces that have driven change, in particular those relating to the wider project of management reforms. Third, we raise questions of how medical professionals have responded to these changes and what factors have shaped their responses. Lastly we consider what some of the outcomes of greater medical involvement in management and leadership might be, both in terms of intended and unintended outcomes. Conclusions: The paper concludes by summarising the contributions to the special issue and highlighting the need to extend research in this area by focusing more on comparative dimensions of change. It is argued that future research would also benefit theoretically by drawing together insights from health policy and management literatures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 Kirkpatrick et al.


  • Comparative research
  • Hybrid roles
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Medicine
  • Performance
  • Public hospitals

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