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Everyday resistance in the U.K.’s National Health Service

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-17, 14:21 authored by Ryan Essex, Jess Dillard-Wright, Guy AitchisonGuy Aitchison, Hil Aked

Resistance is a concept understudied in the context of health and healthcare. This is in part because visible forms of social protest are sometimes understood as incongruent with professional identity, leading healthcare workers to separate their visible actions from their working life. Resistance takes many forms, however, and focusing exclusively on the visible means more subtle forms of everyday resistance are likely to be missed. The overarching aim of this study was to explore how resistance was enacted within the workplace amongst a sample of 11 healthcare workers, based in the UK; exploring the forms that such action took and how this intersected with health and healthcare. In depth-interviews were conducted and results were analysed utilising Lilja’s framework (2022). Our findings suggest that resistance took a number of forms, from more direct confrontational acts, to those which sought to avoid power or which sought to create alternative or prefigurative practices or norms. These findings speak to the complexities, ambiguities and contradictions of resistance, as carried out by healthcare workers in the workplace. While many acts had clear political motives, with issues like climate change in mind for example, participants also described how the act of providing care itself could be an act of resistance. While saying something about our participants, this also said something about the healthcare systems in which they worked. These findings also raise a range of normative issues. Perhaps needless to say, there appears to be substantial scope to expand and interrogate our findings and apply the idea of resistance to health and healthcare.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • International Relations, Politics and History

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Journal of Bioethical Inquiry










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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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Dr Guy Aitchison. Deposit date: 6 February 2023

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