Enacting corporate governance of healthcare safety and quality: a dramaturgy of hospital boards in England

Tim Freeman*, Ross Millar, Russell Mannion, Huw Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


The governance of patient safety is a challenging concern for all health systems. Yet, while the role of executive boards receives increased scrutiny, the area remains theoretically and methodologically underdeveloped. Specifically, we lack a detailed understanding of the performative aspects at play: what board members say and do to discharge their accountabilities for patient safety. This article draws on qualitative data from overt non-participant observation of four NHS hospital Foundation Trust boards in England. Applying a dramaturgical framework to explore scripting, setting, staging and performance, we found important differences between case study sites in the performative dimensions of processing and interpretation of infection control data. We detail the practices associated with these differences - the legitimation of current performance, the querying of data classification, and the naming and shaming of executives - to consider their implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-251
Number of pages19
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • governance
  • National Health Service (NHS)
  • safety


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