Over a number of years in the UK, public service improvement has been at the centre of both Conservative and Labour policy. Keen to make improvements in public services, the current Labour government is pursuing this issue more strongly than any other. This paper examines the concept of improvement and reviews the academic literature which has empirically assessed improvements in a range of public services. Drawn from over 50 studies of improvement, the evidence highlights seven determinants or improvement ‘triggers’ which have been put in place and which have had a positive effect on a public service. These include quality frameworks and public participation forums. The paper reviews the evidence and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the studies themselves. The findings of the paper indicate that, despite a political drive to improve public services, there is insufficient evidence available on ‘what works’ in bringing about improvement. The need for sustained research in this area is emphasized and conclusions are drawn on a way forward.
- Improving public services