Heyman, Bob, John, Swain and Maureen, Gillman (2004) Organisational simplification and secondary complexity in health services for adults with learning disabilities. Social Science and Medicine, 58 (2). pp. 357-367. ISSN 0277-9536

This paper explores the role of complexity and simplification in the delivery of health care for adults with learning disabilities, drawing upon qualitative data obtained in a study carried out in NE England. It is argued that the requirement to manage complex health needs with limited resources causes service providers to simplify, standardise and routinise care. Simplified service models may work well enough for the majority of clients, but can impede recognition of the needs of those whose characteristics are not congruent with an adopted model. The data were analysed in relation to the core category, identified through thematic analysis, of secondary complexity arising from organisational simplification. Organisational simplification generates secondary complexity when operational routines designed to make health complexity manageable cannot accommodate the needs of non-standard service users. Associated themes, namely the social context of services, power and control, communication skills, expertise and service inclusiveness and evaluation are explored in relation to the core category. The concept of secondary complexity resulting from organisational simplification may partly explain seemingly irrational health service provider behaviour.