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I am going to look at the current health and social care context in which the government is advocating interprofessional working. I will discuss the benefits of interprofessional working drawing on examples from my own collaborative group work

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Introduction

Discuss the potential benefits and difficulties associated with interprofessional collaborative working, drawing examples from your own experiences of the collaborative group work that forms an integral aspect of the module. Interprofessional is a term used to describe professionals from different disciplines working in collaboration to achieve mutually agreed goals for clients, patients or service users. In this essay I am going to look at the current health and social care context in which the government is advocating interprofessional working. I will discuss the benefits of interprofessional working drawing on examples from my own collaborative group work. I will also examine some of the difficulties and barriers to collaborative working, using my groupwork as an illustration of difficulties that may arise when working with other professionals who have differing values and perspectives, and issues associated with power relations within groups. The promotion of interprofessional working in the delivery of health and social care has long been regarded by planners and practitioners as of great importance, in order to provide a better quality of service. This has been highlighted in UK government policy over the last decade. When New Labour was elected in 1997, they began to make a series of policy changes in health and social care. The government recognised that there was a clear boundary between these two services. It called upon the NHS and local authorities to forge partnerships and break down organisational barriers (Department of Health, 1997). Many people had complex needs spanning across the health services and social services, but found themselves receiving inadequate care due to 'sterile arguments about boundaries'. New government incentives would encourage joint working to improve all aspects of health and social care through pooled budgets, lead commissioning and integrated provision (Department of Health, 1998). These measures were followed by the publication of the NHS Plan (Department of Health, 2000a). The report said that the system at the time was too disjointed with too many organisational barriers, and outlined the ways in which it hoped the divisions between health and social care would be overcome. ...read more.

Middle

The paper says that the government have made interprofessional working a regular feature of policy since the Warnock Committee Report (Department of Education and Science, 1978). The Warnock Report recommended that Education authorities should seek the involvement of Social Services departments in making assessments for children with special educational needs. The report says that this is necessary in order to allow for social workers to make valuable contributions if they wish to do so, and also to provide social work support to the families concerned if this is required. The recommendations were approved and put in the 1980 Education Acts. Research commissioned by the government following this, however, found that the inter-agency cooperation desired was not taking place, and so this was re-emphasised in the Scottish Office Circular 4/96: Well structured assessment procedures can ensure children are properly catered for in their first years at school, and that their needs are provided for promptly and appropriately. This requires close co-operation between parents and all the statutory agencies and a full understanding by each of the participants of the part that they, and others, play in the process. (Para. 67, p17) The 1995 Children (Scotland) Act put a duty on education and social work departments to make known their plans to assess children with special educational needs in order for joint assessments to take place. It also requires education, health and social services departments to collaborate in order to produce a Children's Services Plan. This is further encouragement to develop better interprofessional working. All the participants from the education and social work departments in the study stated several advantages of inter-agency collaboration. Three different types of benefits were agreed upon by all involved: Professional benefits or benefits to the department such as joint assessments, which are more cost effective; altruistic benefits or benefits for children and their families such as holistic assessment and the best provision of services; and personal benefits such as job satisfaction and support from colleagues. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are also a number of cultural barriers to the effectiveness of interprofessional collaboration. Irvine et al say that language barriers exist between professions. Many professionals use obscure jargon that is inaccessible to those outside the discipline. This can be a source of misconception and misunderstanding between service providers. Terms used in one profession are often used by other professions; however these terms may have significantly different meanings and connotations, and entail differing responses from professionals in different disciplines. This can cause confusion in interprofessional collaborative work. Irvine et al also point out that professional bodies tend to stake out boundaries between themselves and other professions. In order to maintain distinctive identities and protect their independence, professionals may be reluctant to share information with members of other professions. Therefore many professionals remain ignorant of other professions' procedures and purposes, and have little knowledge of the demands their work places on them. This can cause a barrier to effective co-operation. Workers may set unreasonably high expectations of other practitioners, which will often lead to judgements of failure when their expectations are not met. An example of boundary setting between professions was identified within our group work, where in the earlier sessions, nurses sat on one side of the room while the social workers sat on the other. The experience of working in an interprofessional team has benefited my learning. It has helped me to understand and see first hand some of the benefits and difficulties of collaborative working which I will face in my future career. As a team member I have learnt that I am sometimes quite passive, and need to develop my communication skills to enable myself to articulate more confidently my ideas and contributions. On the whole I feel that the topic of interprofessional working is very relevant to the effectiveness and efficiency of health and social care now and in the future. Inteprofessional working can bring many benefits, but there are also many barriers and hurdles that need to be considered and overcome to ensure that a high quality service is provided to service users. 3062 words. ...read more.

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