Forms of Care – introduction to the study

Welcome to the website for the Forms of Care Project. This is an ESRC-funded three-year ethnographic study examining instances where healthcare care staff within one medical trust and focusing on the palliative care team, either individually or collectively, do not do something. We acknowledge that paradoxically, this mode of ‘not intervening’ is, from the palliative team’s standpoint, a valid and important variant of medical intervention, yet is regularly perceived as withholding or denying the patient services or treatment.

There is currently a great deal of interest in how the NHS as a whole is having to make treatment decisions at both the policy and individual level by taking into account diverse criteria and values. As part of this, a lot of debate has focused on so-called ‘over-treatment’ and high-profile cases of medical neglect. However, in practice, and between these two extremes, medical care regularly involves more modest practices of simply not intervening or of withdrawing treatment.

By drawing on anthropological theories and methods we will analyse the way this alternative ‘logic of care’ emerges in practice, and how people themselves differentiate it from both neglect and the more heroic imperative to always act. Although instances of not intervening are regularly described and defined as simply the opposite to the usual imperative to always clinically intervene, we wish to contextualise these occasions within the everyday care that is provided, and examine the extent to which different values and criteria are being drawn on, and ultimately whether the patient and their status are thereby constructed differently.

The project is running from September 2017 to August 2020 and is a joint collaboration between LSHTM and the Open University. We will be using this website to share project updates, the resources generated by the project, and further information about related topics. You can also follow the project on Twitter @formsofcare

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