Democracy and Lay Participation: The Case of NICE

In Henry Kipppin Gerry Stoker (ed.), The Future of Public Service Reform. bloomsbury academic press (2013)
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What is the role of lay deliberation – if any – in health-care rationing, and administration more generally? Two potential answers are suggested by recent debates on the subject. The one, which I will call the technocratic answer, suggests that there is no distinctive role for lay participation once ordinary democratic politics have set the goals and priorities which reform should implement. Determining how best to achieve those ends, and then actually achieving them, this view suggests, is a matter for experts, armed with the best evidence available to them, both of the subject area involved, and of management and administrative excellence. By contrast, the second, deliberative, view holds that lay deliberation has an important role in the administration and execution of government policy, both because these latter inevitably have a political element which needs to reflect democratic norms and values, and because lay people are, themselves, a source of information, even of wisdom, that experts will want to use in fulfilling their professional responsibilities. Recent debates on the value of lay participation in healthcare provision can illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, as can the experience of NICE. So, I will start by examining two articles by Albert Weale, which attempt to clarify the role that lay deliberation should have in healthcare, before turning to the dilemmas for both the technocratic and deliberative views which emerge from the experience of NICE.
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