We've got what the NHS ultimately intended for us: experiences of community engagement in rural primary care services change

Sarah-Anne Munoz, Sara Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
39 Downloads (Pure)


Policy promotes service user engagement in health services design and delivery. Various tools exist to support the engagement of citizens within health services design. We consider community engagement within the context of primary care delivery in remote and rural areas of Scotland. We present findings from three years of qualitative work with community members and healthcare professionals within five different remote and rural areas, undergoing primary care service changes. 364 interviews were carried out with community members and healthcare professionals on their experiences of, and feelings towards, the services changes. A key theme to emerge from our thematic analysis of the qualitative data is experiences of community engagement. In this paper we present our analysis of this theme. We identify different types of community engagement discourse within community and healthcare professional interviews. We illustrate these themes and, through consideration of five case study areas, demonstrate how these discourses can co-exist within the same service change process. The paper presents our sub-themes on community engagement relating to discourses of inclusion and exclusion; the role of the General Practitioner (GP); conceptualisations of the organisational role of the NHS; discourses of fear and, finally, community members understandings of what it means to be active “agents of change” (or not) within health services redesign. We argue that context is as important as method when it comes to facilitating a positive community engagement experience for citizens. Our findings have relevance to the emerging social science literature on citizen experience of public sector community engagement activities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114033
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date13 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 May 2021


  • community engagement
  • primary care
  • services change
  • rural
  • scotland


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