Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Making sense of the social world



I am a Professor of Medical Sociology at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. I am also Director of Studies for BA Social Policy and BA Health and Social Care.

I am interested in the sociology of health, illness and health policy. I’ve published extensively in journals, chapters and books about a range of health-related issues and my books include ‘Health and Illness: the lay perspective’, ‘Going Private: why people use private health care’, ‘The Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease: prospects, politics and policies’ and 'Work Stress: the making of a modern epidemic'. ‘ Modern Medicine: lay perspectives, ‘Health, Medicine and Society.  Key Theories, Future Agendas’.

I joined SSPSSR in 2007 and prior to that I was Professor of Medical Sociology and Senior Scientist in the Medical Research Councils’ Health Services Research Collaboration at the University of Bristol (2000-2007). I was Professor and Director of CHSS at the University of Kent from 1994-2000 and convenor of the MA in Health Studies.

I completed my PhD at the University of Kent, my BSc from the University of London and my MSc at the University of Bristol.

Contact Information


Room E134
Cornwallis East
University of Kent
Kent CT2 7NF

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Tonkin, E. et al. (2018). Food-system actors' perspectives on trust: an international comparison. British Food Journal [Online]. Available at:
Lewis, S. et al. (2017). Healthcare in the news media: The privileging of private over public. Journal of Sociology [Online]. Available at:
Lloyd, L. et al. (2017). Older people's perspectives on dignity: the benefits and challenges of a qualitative longitudinal approach to researching experiences of later life. International Journal of Social Research Methodology [Online]:1-12. Available at:
Hashem, F., Calnan, M. and Brown, P. (2017). Decision-making in NICE single technological appraisals (STAs): How does NICE incorporate patient perspectives? Health Expectations [Online]. Available at:
Calnan, M., Hashem, F. and Brown, P. (2017). Still elegantly muddling through? NICE and uncertainty in decision making about the rationing of expensive medicines in England. International Journal of Health Services [Online] 47. Available at:
Calnan, M. et al. (2017). The response to and impact of the Ebola epidemic: towards an agenda for interdisciplinary research. International Journal of Health Policy and Management [Online] 7:402-411. Available at:
Meyer, S. et al. (2017). In the interest of food safety: a qualitative study investigating communication and trust between food regulators and food industry in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. BMC Public Health [Online] 17:189. Available at:
Birkhäuer, J., Gaab, J. and Calnan, M. (2017). Is having a trusting doctor-patient relationship better for patients' health? European Journal for Person Centered Healthcare [Online] 5:145-147. Available at:
Douglass, T. and Calnan, M. (2016). Trust Matters for Doctors? Towards an Agenda for Research. Social Theory and Health [Online] 14:393-413. Available at:
Pearson, J. et al. (2016). The acceptability to patients of PhysioDirect telephone assessment and advice services; a qualitative interview study. BMC Health Services Research [Online] 16. Available at:
Stait, E. and Calnan, M. (2016). Are differential consumption patterns in health-related behaviours an explanation for persistent and widening social inequalities in health in England? International Journal for Equity in Health [Online] 15. Available at:
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2016). Chains of (dis)trust: exploring the underpinnings of knowledge sharing and quality care across mental health services. Sociology of Health and Illness [Online] 38:286-305. Available at:
Willis, K. et al. (2016). Knowledge matters: producing and using knowledge to navigate healthcare systems. Health Sociology Review [Online] 25:202-216. Available at:
Kane, S. and Calnan, M. (2016). Erosion of Trust in the Medical Profession in India : Time for Doctors to Act. International Journal of Health Policy and Management [Online] 6:5-8. Available at:
Gabe, J., Harley, K. and Calnan, M. (2015). Healthcare choice: Discourses, perceptions, experiences and practices. Current Sociology [Online] 63:621-635. Available at:
Kane, S., Calnan, M. and Radkar, A. (2015). Trust and trust relations from the providers' perspective: the case of the healthcare system in India. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics [Online] 12:157-168. Available at:
Brown, P., Hashem, F. and Calnan, M. (2015). Trust, regulatory processes and NICE decision-making: Appraising cost-effectiveness models through appraising people and systems. Social Studies of Science [Online] 46:87-111. Available at:
Sanderson, T., Calnan, M. and Kumar, K. (2015). The moral experience of illness and its impact on normalisation: Examples from narratives with Punjabi women living with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK. Sociology of Health & Illness [Online] 37:1218-1235. Available at:
Lloyd, L. et al. (2014). Identity in the fourth age: Perseverance, adaptation and maintaining dignity. Ageing and Society [Online] 34:1-19. Available at:
Brennan, N. et al. (2013). Trust in the health-care provider–patient relationship: a systematic mapping review of the evidence base. International Journal for Quality in Health Care [Online]. Available at:
Cheraghi-Sohi, S. and Calnan, M. (2013). Discretion or discretions? Delineating professional discretion: Thecase of English medical practice. Social Science and Medicine [Online] 96:52-59. Available at:
Calnan, M. et al. (2013). I often worry about the older person being in that system': exploring the key influences on the provision of dignified care for older people in acute hospitals. Ageing and Society [Online] 33:465-485. Available at:
Wilson, A. et al. (2013). Trust makers, breakers and brokers: Building trust in the Australian food system. BMC Public Health [Online] 13. Available at:
Hillman, A. et al. (2013). Risk, governance and the experience of care. Sociology of Health & Illness [Online] 35:939-955. Available at: http://dx.doi.org10.1111/1467-9566.12017.
Henderson, J. et al. (2013). Evaluating the use of citizens' juries in food policy: A case study of food regulation. BMC Public Health [Online] 13. Available at:
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2013). Trust as a Means of Bridging the Management of Risk and the Meeting of Need: A Case Study in Mental Health Service Provision. Social Policy & Administration [Online] 47:242-261. Available at:
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2012). Braving a faceless new world? Conceptualizing trust in the pharmaceutical industry and its products. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine [Online] 16:57-75. Available at:
Chalder, M. et al. (2012). Facilitated physical activity as a treatment for depressed adults: Randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open [Online] 344. Available at:
Sanderson, T. et al. (2012). Exploring the cultural validity of rheumatology outcomes. British Journal of Nursing 21:1015-1023.
Tadd, W. et al. (2012). From right place - Wrong person, to right place - Right person: Dignified care for older people. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy [Online] 17:30-36. Available at:
Salisbury, C. et al. (2011). Lessons from evaluation of the NHS White Paper 'Our health our care our say'. British Journal of General Practice [Online] 61:766-771. Available at:
Spyridonidis, D. and Calnan, M. (2011). Are new forms of professionalism emerging in modern medicine ? the case of the implementation of NICE guidelines. Health Sociology Review [Online] 20:394-409. Available at:
Sanderson, T. et al. (2011). Shifting normalities: Interactions of changing conceptions of a normal life and the normalisation of symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis. Sociology of Health & Illness [Online] 33:618-633. Available at:
Cameron, A. et al. (2011). Policy makers' perceptions on the use of evidence from evaluations. Evidence and Policy [Online] 7:429-447. Available at:
Salisbury, C. et al. (2011). Making the most of evaluation: a mixed methods study in the English NHS. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy [Online] 16:218-225. Available at:
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2011). The Civilizing process of trust: Developing quality mechanisms which are local, professional-led and thus legitimate. Social Policy & Administration [Online] 45:19-34. Available at:
Spyridonidis, D. and Calnan, M. (2011). Opening the black box: A study of the process of nice guideline implementation. Health Policy [Online] 102:117-125. Available at:
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2011). NICE technology appraisals: Working with multiple levels of uncertainty and the potential for bias. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy [Online] 16:281-293. Available at: http://dx.doi.org10.1007/s11019-011-9376-2.
Harley, K. et al. (2011). Constructing health consumers: Private health insurance discourses in Australia and the United Kingdom. Health Sociology Review [Online] 20:306-320. Available at:
Brown, P. et al. (2011). The quality of interaction between managers and clinicians: a question of trust. Public Money & Management [Online] 31:43-50. Available at:
Tadd, W. et al. (2011). Right place - Wrong person: Dignity in the acute care of older people. Quality in Ageing and Older Adults [Online] 12:33-43. Available at:
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2010). The Risks of Managing Uncertainty: the limitations of governance and choice, and the potential for trust. Social Policy and Society [Online] 9:13-24. Available at:
Sanderson, T. et al. (2010). What outcomes from pharmacologic treatments are important to people with rheumatoid arthritis? Creating the basis of a patient core set. Arthritis Care and Research [Online] 62:640-646. Available at:
Spyridonidis, D. and Calnan, M. (2010). Implementing clinical governance policy: NICE. British Journal of Health Care Management 16:394-400.
Sanderson, T. et al. (2010). Patient perspective of measuring treatment efficacy: The rheumatoid arthritis patient priorities for pharmacologic interventions outcomes. Arthritis Care and Research [Online] 62:647-656. Available at:
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2010). Political accountability of explicit rationing: legitimacy problems faced by NICE. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy [Online] 15:65-66. Available at:
Wilson, P. et al. (2010). Effects of a financial incentive on health researcher's response to an online survey: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research [Online] 12. Available at:
Sanderson, T. et al. (2010). 'It's this whole picture, this well-being': Patients' understanding of 'feeling well' with rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic Illness [Online] 6:228-240. Available at:
Sanderson, T. et al. (2009). The impact of patient-perceived restricted access to anti-TNF therapy for rheumatoid arthritis: A qualitative study. Musculoskeletal Care [Online] 7:194-209. Available at:
Brown, P. et al. (2009). Trust in Mental Health Services: A neglected concept. Journal of Mental Health [Online] 18:449-458. Available at:
Calnan, M. and Rowe, R. (2008). Trust, accountability and choice. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 10:201-206. Available at:
Wilson, P. et al. (2008). Why promote the findings of single research studies? BMJ Open [Online] 336. Available at:
Calnan, M. and Rowe, R. (2008). Trust relations in a changing health service. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy [Online] 13:97-103. Available at:
Entwistle, V., Calnan, M. and Dieppe, P. (2008). Consumer involvement in setting the health services research agenda: persistent questions of value. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy [Online] 13:76-81. Available at:
Gooberman-Hill, R., Horwood, J. and Calnan, M. (2008). Citizens' juries in planning research priorities: process, engagement and outcome. Health Expectations [Online] 11:272-281. Available at:
Sanderson, T. et al. (2008). The use of nominal groups to develop a patient-generated core set of treatment outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism 58:S863-S863.
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2012). Trusting on the Edge: Managing Uncertainty and Vulnerability in the Midst of Serious Mental Health. [Online]. Brown, P. and Calnan, M. W. eds. Bristol: Policy Press. Available at:
Calnan, M. and Rowe, R. (2008). Trust Matters In Health Care. [Online]. Open University Press. Available at:
Book section
Lloyd, L. et al. (2018). Maintaining dignity and Independence. in: Walker, A. ed. The New Dynamics of Ageing. Bristol ;UK: Policy Press, pp. 71-85.
Calnan, M. and Kane, S. (2018). Trust and regulation of health systems: Insights from India. in: Chamberlain, J. M., Saks, M. and Dent, M. eds. Professional Health Regulation in the Public Interest: International Perspectives. Bristol, UK: Policy Press. Available at:
Calnan, M. and Douglass, T. (2017). The evaluation of new medicines. in: Greve, B. ed. Handbook of Social Policy Evaluation. Edward Elgar, pp. 300-322.
Brown, P. and Calnan, M. (2016). Professionalism, trust and cooperation. in: Dent, M. et al. eds. The Routledge Companion to the Professions and Professionalism. Routledge, pp. 129-143. Available at:
Calnan, M. and Calovski, V. (2015). Medical tourism and trust; towards an agenda for research. in: Lunt, N., Horsfall, D. and Hanefeld, J. eds. Handbook on Medical Tourism and Patient Mobility. Edward Elgar, pp. 379-392.
Calnan, M. (2015). Eliot Freidson: Sociological Narratives of Professionalism and Modern Medicine. in: Collyer, F. ed. The Palgrave Handbook of Social Theory in Health, Illness and Medicine. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 287-305.
Calnan, M. (2013). Quantitative Survey Methods in Health Research. in: Saks, M. and Allsop, J. eds. Researching Health: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Second Edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, pp. 190-215. Available at:
Calnan, M. and Brown, P. (2011). The reconfiguration of trust relations in healthcare? The case of the English NHS. in: Phellas, C. N. ed. Sociological Perspectives of Health & Illness. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 59-77.
Wainwright, D. and Calnan, M. (2011). What the Doctor Ordered: The Audit Commission's case study of General Practice fundholders. in: Exworthy, M. et al. eds. Shaping health policy: Case study methods and analysis. Bristol: Policy Press. Available at:
Wainwright, D. and Calnan, M. (2011). The fall of work stress and the rise of wellbeing. in: Vickerstaff, S., Phillipson, C. and Wilkie, R. eds. Work, Health and Well-Being: The Challenges of Managing Health at Work. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 161-186. Available at:
Calnan, M. and Rowe, R. (2008). Trust relations and changing professional governance: theoretical challenges (Chapter 4). in: Kuhlmann, E. and Saks, M. eds. Rethinking professional governance: International directions in healthcare. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 61-76. Available at:
Conference or workshop item
Forrester-Jones, R., Sango, P. and Calnan, M. (2016). Exploring the importance of spirituality in relation to the social networks of individuals with IDD. in: Wiley-Blackwell.
Edited book
Gabe, J. and Calnan, M. .W. eds. (2009). The New Sociology of the Health Service. [Online]. London: Routledge. Available at:
Calnan, M. et al. (2018). Decisions of Value: Going Backstage. International Journal of Health Policy Management [Online]:1-7. Available at:
Wilson, A. et al. (2019). A cross-country comparison of strategies used to build consumer trust in the food supply. Health Promotion International.
Calnan, M. (2019). CH 13 Quantitative Survey Methods in Health Research. in: saks, M. and Allsopp, J. eds. Researching Health: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods. Sage.
Showing 74 of 190 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]
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Research Interests

The study of trust relations in health care

Trust relations in healthcare has been a major focus of my research over the last 10 years. A programme was initially funded by the HSRC, Medical Research Council (2005-2010: see Calnan M and Rowe R (2008) Trust Matters in Health Care, Open University Press, Berkshire) and since then I have been the principal investigator on two ESRC funded studies. One of these focused on trust relations in mental health care which had implications for theory and health service policy. It showed that trust relations are crucial to the therapeutic encounter in mental health between clinician and patient but that current mental health policy with its emphasis on risk aversion mitigated against development of trust relations (see Brown P and Calnan M (2012) Trusting on the Edge, Managing uncertainty and vulnerability in the midst of serious mental health problems, Policy Press, Bristol)

The second of the studies focused on the social influences on decision-making made by NICE in relation to technological appraisals. This was an innovative study and involved an ethnography of decision-making particularly looking at the management of different types of uncertainty and how trust along with other mechanisms was a way of bridging uncertainty. It particularly illustrated the relations and tensions between NICE and the drug industry and how they were managed. The findings and recommendations from this study are being used by NICE in its current strategic review of technological appraisals. Very recently the focus has shifted to the examination of trust relations in health systems more globally and the current research has involved an exploratory study investigating the nature of trust relations in the healthcare system in India (see Kane S, Calnan M and Radkar A (2015) Trust and trust relations from the providers perspective: the case of the health care system in India, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, 12,3,158-169.)


I am currently working:

  • on an ESRC funded ethnographic study which is exploring the use of trust entitled  “Managing uncertainty within NICE technological appraisals: the nature and impact of the 'social features' of decision-making” ( 2011- 2014).

    The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is emblematic of the “neutral” and “objective” approach of modern regulatory institutions. Through systematic appraisals of the cost-effectiveness of drugs for the NHS, it aims to overcome the inconsistencies of the previously discretionary decisions of medical professionals. Cost-effectiveness recommendations ensure a more standardised access to medication across the NHS, as well as regulating the imperfections of the market in terms of over-priced medication.

    These regulatory roles have important ethical implications for access and resource use, yet the neutrality and objectivity referred to is not straightforward. The volume, contestability and complexity of information which is processed within these appraisals means that a number of decision mechanisms for coping with uncertainty are inevitably invoked. Uncertainty appears to be inherent in this decision making process.

    The study is investigating the nature of uncertainties faced within appraisal decisions, the social mechanisms applied in dealing with these, and the impact this has on decision outcomes. This ethnographic study involves: non-participant observation of committee meetings and interviews with committee members, analysts from NICE’s project team, a range of representatives from the various interest groups, and experts involved in the process and documentary outputs from committee processes.
  • on international comparative research:
    1. Studies of Trust and Food Health Systems in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand
    2. Trust relations in Healthcare Systems in India
    3. Identifying priorities for social research and the 2013-16 Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa: This involved a research scoping exercise carried out by an interdisciplinary team in Guinea in January 2017 with the aim of identifying priorities for further research into the impact of the EVD epidemic. It examined the research needs and priorities from the perspective of those who directly experienced the EVD epidemic in Guinea. The aim is to explore these key priorities in future research. For further information see:


The study of ageing and health care specifically exploring dignity and the provision of health and social care for older people

Older age is one stage of the life course where dignity maybe threatened due to the vulnerability created by increased incapacity, frailty and cognitive decline in combination with a lack of social and economic resources. 

Evidence suggests that it is in contact with health and welfare services where dignity is most threatened. Our most recent SDO funded study with the University of Cardiff explored the experiences of older people in acute NHS trusts in relation to dignified care and the organisational, occupational and cultural factors that affect it. 

These objectives were examined through an ethnography of four acute hospital trusts in England and Wales, which involved interviews with older people (65+) recently discharged from hospital, their relatives/carers, and trust managers, practitioners and other staff, complemented by evidence from non-participant observation.

The picture which emerged was of a lack of consistency in the provision of dignified care, which appears to be explained by the dominance of priorities of the system and organisation tied together with the interests of ward staff and clinicians (for full report see Tadd, W., Hillman, A., Calnan, S., Calnan, M. ,Bayer, A. and  Read, S. (2011) Dignity in Practice :an exploration of the care of older patients in acute NHS Trusts,


I welcome postgraduate research proposals in the areas of Sociology of Health and Illness and Health Policy. If you are interested in studying at the University of Kent, please email me to discuss further.

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I teach the following modules:

  • Sociology of Health and Illness
  • Health and Health Policy
  • Key Issues in Welfare
  • Comparative Social Policy
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Elected member of the ISA research committee 15, Sociology of Heath 2014 - .

Currently an academic adviser to a number of international scientific research bodies: including Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P. (FCT) Portugal, Research Council of Norway, Swiss National Scientific Foundation and Commonwealth Scholarships (London), ESRC Future Leaders panel.

Think Kent lecture exploring the importance and meaning of trust within different clinical, organisational and cultural contexts: Trust Matters: The Case of Health Care

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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 15/11/2018