Abstracts: October 3rd, 2002

By Rod Sheaff, Susan Pickard and Keri SmithAnalyses and policy statements about publicly funded services frequently distinguish ‘demands’ from ‘needs’. The distinction has been challenged, calling into question the coherence of formulating welfare policy and evaluating public services in terms of needs. This paper explores the conceptual distinction between demands and needs in terms of derived demand and information asymmetry. ‘Needs’ can be defined as ‘rational demands’, where ‘rational’ means ‘consistent and evidence-based’, and ‘demands’ as ‘desires’ rather than ‘effective (i.e. economic) demand’ A study of English NHS Primary Care Groups explores the problems which authorities responsible for publicly funded services face in undertaking these activities. Demand management receives low priority in terms of the incentives and intellectual resources applied to it. Needs assessment has higher priority but is regarded as a branch of evidence-based professional practice, controlled by professionals rather than responsive to users. This separation tends to defeat the purposes of needs-based public services.

Public Administration 2002 Volume 80. ISSN 0033-3298. http://www.blackwellpublishers.co.uk/asp/journal.asp

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