Deborah Davidson

Clinical and Managerial Discourses of Change in the UK NHS

Supervisors: Professor Mark Exworthy, Professor Catherine Needham

Since the early 2000s, there has been a growing leadership discourse in official NHS policy, which governments attributed to the increased demands and expectations on the UK public services, while academic accounts argued that ‘leaderism’ was introduced as a complementary set of discourses and practices to managerialism, that helped to reinvigorate public services and provide an alternative way of mobilising and delivering healthcare through better leadership.

As one of the major factors in the emergence of leaderism was the demand for effective change-leadership to carry out NHS modernisation or reform, a critical question of these policy and academic accounts is why they remain focused on organisational roles (leadership) and bureaucratic control (management), and miss the instrumental, symbolic and discursive representations of change in these policy narratives. The answer to this is not clear.


Deborah Davidson worked as a director in voluntary sector mental health, social care and housing services from 1984 – 1998. From 1998 she moved to work in higher education, first at King’s College, London as Director of Leadership & Organisational Development Programmes and Director of Educational Programmes for the Institute for Applied Health and Social Policy and then to the Health Services Management Centre, at the University of Birmingham, where she was a Senior Fellow, Organisational Development and Leadership, until August 2022, when she left to complete her PhD studies. Deborah remains as an Honorary Associate Professor, in the School of Social Policy.


  • Currently studying for a PhD, University of Birmingham
  • MA in Social Research (Cultural Studies and Sociology), University of Birmingham, 2011
  • MA Consultation & the Organisation, University of East London, 1997

Research interests

Improvement of both the quality and capacity of public services to realise citizen and service user outcomes including for black and ethnic minority communities. Focussing on research, developmental evaluations and organisation development of public services, Deborah works co-productively with individuals, groups, teams and inter-agency systems to understand and make changes to their contexts at strategic, middle management, front-line and community levels.

Professional memberships

  • Social Research Association
  • Institute for Leadership and Management (ILM)
  • Advanced Organisational Consultation Society (AOCS)

Conference Papers

Davidson, D. and Neumann, J. (2009) It Depends: Relative Dependency in Organisational Development and Change Education and Consultancy, Academy of Management Summer Conference, Chicago.


Davidson, D., Williams, I., Glasby, J., & Paine, A. E. (2022). ‘Localism and intimacy, and... other rather imponderable reasons of that sort’: A qualitative study of patient experience of community hospitals in England. Health & Social Care in the Community, 00, 1–10.

Kilbane, J., Davidson, D., Boyd, A., Shawhan, K., Jones, S., Singh, K., & Chambers, N. (2020). Formative Evaluation of NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Culture and Leadership Programme. Report for NHS Improvement, Manchester University

Ellis Paine A, Kamerāde D, Mohan J, Davidson D. (2019) Communities as ‘renewable energy’ for healthcare services? a multimethods study into the form, scale and role of voluntary support for community hospitals in England BMJ Open 2019;9 

Seamark D, Davidson D, Tucker H, Ellis Paine A, Glasby J. The changing role of GP clinicians working in community hospitals. Br J Gen Pract 2019.

Davidson D, Ellis Paine A, Glasby J, Williams I, Tucker H, Crilly T, et al. Analysis of the profile, characteristics, patient experience and community value of community hospitals: a multimethod study. Health Serv Deliv Res 2019;7(1).

Miller, R., Freeman, T., Davidson, D. and Glasby, J. (2015) An adult social care compendium of approaches and tools for organisational change. Health Services Management Centre, April 2015. 

Ellins, J. Glasby, J. Tanner, D., McIver, S., Davidson, D., Littlechild, R., Snelling, I., Miller, R., Hall, K., Spence, K. and the ‘Care Transitions’ project co-researchers (2012) Understanding and improving transitions of older people: a user and carer centred approach, Southampton: NIHRSDO

Davidson, D, Crilly, T, Combes, G, Joyner, O and Doidge, S (2011) Feasibility of Transferring Budget and Commissioning Responsibility for Forensic Sexual Offences Examination. Report for the Department of Health, |University of Birmingham

Davidson, D. Joyner, O. Drabble, D. Cullen, J. Hills, D. and Szlichcinski, K.  (2010) Independence, Engagement, Relationship and Partnering: Essential dimensions in models of web-based feedback mechanisms for quality improvement, London: The Health Foundation

Brown H, Davidson D, Ellins J, (2009) Real-time Patient Feedback. Health Services Management Centre (for NHS West Midlands).|

Dickenson, H., Peck, E. and Davidson, D. (2007) Opportunity Missed or Seized? A Case Study of Leadership and Organizational Change in the Creation of a Care Trust, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 21 (5): 500-513

Davidson, D. and Peck, E. (2006) Designing and developing healthcare organisations in Smith, J. and Walsh, K. (eds) Healthcare Management, London: Sage 

Davidson, D and Peck E (2005) The Organisational Development Cycle: putting the approaches into a process in Peck, E. (2005) (ed) Organisational Development in Healthcare: approaches, innovations, achievements, Oxford, Radcliffe, 63-76

Contact Details


Twitter: @Deborahbham