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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        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.  Repeated assessments, often by different agencies, and complex navigation round the care system, were incompatible with a quality service.  (Department of Health, 2000b) The report indicated that health would take over much of the responsibilities of social services for elderly and disabled people, while child care might be overseen by the home office.  The report said that social services should, in future, be delivered in new settings, such as GPs’ surgeries, as part of a single local care network.  There should be rapid response teams, made up of nurses, care workers, social workers, therapists and GP’s which would provide emergency care at home.  Integrated care teams should ensure that people receive the care they need after being discharged from hospital and health and social care professions should have the same assessment frameworks.  Primary care trusts create opportunities for closer working between health and social services.  The report said that they would, in future, go further than this.  Some would be established jointly by health and social services authorities, and some would be imposed by the Department of Health where it was felt local arrangements for collaborative working was required.  Incentive payments would be made to encourage and reward joint working.

Some benefits of interprofessional working are identified in a report produced by Cook et al (2001).  The paper draws on the findings of two studies examining team working arrangements, and reports on evaluations of decision making in different types of interdisciplinary teams.  

The first study discussed in the report focussed on a Community Mental Health Team comprised of social workers, GP attached social workers, community psychiatric nurses, community support workers, and health and social service managers.  The second study focussed on Integrated Community Nursing Teams, which were comprised mainly of district nurses, health visitors and practice nurses attached to a particular general practice.  The intention of establishing these teams was to develop a model of collaborative working in order to improve client care.  Decision-making was a central issue in both of the studies.  Although the compositions of the two teams were different, and their aims were varied, there were a number of common issues identified relating to decision-making.  Two types of decision-making were noticeable, those relating to clients, and those which led to changes in working practices.  

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One benefit of interprofessional working relating to decision making identified in the studies was to do with the sharing of information within the teams.  This was most clearly illustrated in the Community Mental Health Team.  In this team the role of the Community Support Workers was to develop close working relationships with clients, enabling them to acquire a detailed knowledge of the client’s needs and wishes. This allowed them to provide information about the client to other members of the team, in order to provide a more effective service.  The capacity for information sharing was improved by the physical ...

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