Sociology and Health Care: An Introduction for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals

Sociology and Health Care: An Introduction for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals

Sociology and Health Care: An Introduction for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals

Sociology and Health Care: An Introduction for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals


"The author's agenda in writing the book was to provoke critical thinking and awareness and to move beyond the simplistic rhetoric that so often characterizes much of public debate on health care matters. I have no doubt that he has achieved these aims...and more."
Sociology Volume 43, Number 3, June 2009

"Sociology & Health Care is easy to read and offers an introduction into selected, but key areas, of the sociology of health and illness. It is a useful book for health care students as well as health care workers who are interested in the social aspects of their work, their job and how it all fits into the wider society."
Sociological Research Online

  • Are patients 'customers'? What does this mean for the patient-practitioner relationship?
  • What should the relationship be between expert knowledge and our own experiences when dealing with health and illness?
  • Do people who are better off get better access to health care?
Debates about the future of health care bring questions about patient choice, paternalism and inequalities to the fore. This book addresses some of the sociological issues surrounding these questions including:
  • The social distribution of knowledge
  • The basis of professional power
  • Sources of social inequalities in health
  • The ability of health care services to address these issues
The book provides suggestions and examples of how sociological concepts and insights can be used to help think about important contemporary issues in health care. For that reason, it has a practical as well as academic purpose, contributing to improvement of the quality of interaction between patients and practitioners. The core themes running throughout the book are inequalities in health and the rise of chronic disease, with particular attention being given to psycho-social models of illness which locate individual experiences within wider social relationships.

Sociology and Health Care is key reading for student nurses and those on allied health courses, and also appeals to a wide range of professionals who are interested in current debates in health and social care.


As this book was being written, barely a week passed without media and political attention being focused on some aspect of health care. Very often at the centre of attention were the institutional arrangements of the NHS. Did patients get listened to sufficiently? Do they have enough choice? Who should make decisions about the availability of services?

Throughout all of this, a constant message from politicians has been the need to 'modernize' the NHS. Modernization can mean many things, but a key issue in these debates has become the opportunities available to patients to make choices about their own care and treatment.

Putting material for the book together, it became increasingly apparent that an important focus had to be the implications of this for professionals, at the interface between policy changes and individual patients. This is not a book about NHS policy, but it refers to many current developments to explore from a sociological perspective.

A literal meaning of the word sociology, from its Greek roots, is the study of companionship. More typically it is used to describe the study of society, social institutions and social groups. This is a broad canvas, and inevitably it has stimulated a variety of different approaches and methods. An early example, in the nineteenth century, was associated with August Comte, who believed sociology could emulate the natural sciences, establishing laws of society analogous to those of physics and chemistry. Few now harbour this ambition, but there remains a significant tradition that emphasizes the importance of scientific method and investigation.

Others argue that human society must be understood in quite different ways. This book avoids entering these methodological debates, but one of its objectives is to stimulate creative but reasoned thinking about the social relationships involved in health care. Good research evidence can help us do this, but so can other material. This is why, alongside examples from sociological research, the book includes material from other disciplines, including history, moral philosophy and social policy. The view is taken that the boundaries of academic disciplines should assist analysis, not impose irrelevant limitations. Rather than attempting to cover . . .

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