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Where the wicked problems are: the case of mental health

Hannigan, Ben ORCID: and Coffey, Michael 2011. Where the wicked problems are: the case of mental health. Health Policy 101 (3) , pp. 220-227. 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.11.002

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Objective To use system ideas and the concept of ‘wicked problems’ to frame examination of a decade-and-a-half of UK mental health policy. Methods Theoretically informed policy analysis. Results Modern health care is complex, and mental health care particularly so. In the UK the mental health system has also become a policymaking priority. Features of this system mean that many of the problems policymakers face are of the ‘wicked’ variety. Wicked problems are resistant. Problem formulations and their solutions are contestable. Solutions which have ‘worked’ in one setting may not ‘work’ in another, and evidence to guide change is open to challenge. Actions trigger waves with widespread system consequences. In the case of the UK's mental health field significant shifts have taken place in formulations of ‘the problem’ to which actions have been directed. These have included assessments of community care failure, formulations emphasising problems with the professions and, most recently, the need for action to promote mental health and wellbeing. Conclusions In their efforts to secure improvement in a neglected field UK policymakers have unleashed a torrent of top-down actions. Attention needs to be paid to constructing strong, system-wide, partnerships and to examining the cumulative impact of policy actions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Healthcare Sciences
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: Great Britain ; Health policy ; Health services administration ; Mental health ; Organisation and administration ; Public policy
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0168-8510
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 17:11

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