The Swedish Addiction Treatment System: Government, Steering and Organisation. Technical Report

Welfare systems in Sweden and internationally have gone through major changes regarding modes of operation and means of government in New Public Management (NPM) reforms, which have sought to balance autonomy and control. There is a lively debate about NPM, but research is scarce. NPM indicates improved performances but also unintended consequences and inconsistencies concerning ideas, demands on the services and performance incentives – such as tensions between medical and social professional autonomy and knowledge on the one hand and administrative control, auditing and a growing bureaucracy (e.g., procurement, inspections, documentation) on the other. The research project used addiction treatment with different organisations and professions as a case for studying the impact of NPM on the daily work in regional health care and municipal social services organisations.

We charted the broad steering and organisation of addiction treatment. We analysed the extent to which tendencies of NPM have conveyed advantages or created conflicting logics by comparing addiction treatment in three regions and six municipalities with varying degrees of NPM. The study used official statistics, documents, interviews and a web survey. A total of 85 interviews were made with 93 individual state, regional and local policy-makers and officials (including the previously unstudied procurers) and public and private care providers (managers and treatment professionals) in 2017–2018. The interviews formed the basis for a web survey among professionals in Sweden in 2019. Purchasing addiction services was further examined by observing a large procurement process, by organising a workshop with Nordic procurement experts, and by interviewing civil servants in Finland, Denmark and Norway.

The study shows how addiction treatment is governed and organised, highlighting developments over time with special emphasis on various NPM features. The interviews addressed advantages and tensions in the daily work and if and how professionals seek to adapt to new, perhaps inconsistent, demands. The web survey allows for comparisons across organisations and professional groups. This technical report presents the background and aims of the study and describes in detail the Swedish study setting, and the study design, methods and data sources used.