In this piece of work I am going to examine the strengths and weaknesses of inter-professional collaboration by reflecting on my own experience of working in an action learning set, my observations of inter-professional collaboration in different environments, as well as a range of other resources. I am also going to evaluate my own potential contribution to effective inter-professional collaboration. Rawson, 1994 (cited in Leathard, 2003) has devised a mapping of sets, one example of this is shown below:
This model of sets can apply to various different professions but for this example the sets accommodate health, social care and housing. Rawson, 1994 (cited in Leathard, 2003) points out that professional work may blur as a result of these sets. Nevertheless, due to the constantly changing structures of health and social care these boundaries may dissolve, which is illustrated in the example by the dotted lines, which in turn leads to professional responsibility being shared or absorbed by one group.
As social work overlaps both health and housing, Rawson, 1994 (cited in leathard, 2003) would describe these boundaries as being permeable, and if the boundaries then become impermeable professionals would then ‘have to reach an agreement over work sharing that is mutually acceptable or agree to differ’ (p37). An example of the permeable boundaries can be illustrated by looking at the difference between the medical model and the social model; although they inevitably overlap they each have different disciplines (Leathard, 2003).
There have been many cases investigated where service users have not received adequate care, and the result of these investigations has been that a lack of communication and cooperation between agencies is to blame, which has led to the introduction of inter-professional collaboration (Freeth, 2001). There has also been considerable emphasis placed on the need for inter-professional working by the government (Larkin and Callaghan, 2005).
Some of the key documents that are ‘driving forward the inter-professional agenda’ (p339) include The Community Care Act (Department of Health 1990), Building Bridges (Department of Health 1995), The New NHS: Modern and Dependable (Department of Health 1997), Our healthier nation (Department of Health 1998a) and Partnership in Action (Department of Health 1998b) (Larkin and Callaghan, 2005). As you can see, there has been a lot of different policies put in place that urges inter-professional collaboration, but how well is it working?
Is inter-professional collaboration working effectively in agencies today? If the answer to this is yes then how is it being achieved? And if the answer is no, then why is it not being achieved? These are questions that I am going to try my best to answer. Freeth (2001) tells us that ‘much has been written about promoting inter-professional collaboration in health and social care, less about ways to sustain it’ (p37). Action Learning Set We were put into random groups of 4/5 people to ensure that we were working with people that we do not usually work with.
When we had been put into these groups we were given the task of naming the group and drawing up a list of ground rules for the group to follow that we all agreed on. Two of the key rules were that we decided were very important were good communication at all times, and that we were all going to fulfill our duties to the group. Freeth (2001) informs us that it is lack of communication and cooperation between different agencies that leads to poor service for the service users.
It seemed like the group was going to work well together, as we all appeared to have the same goals and enthusiasm from the onset. Unfortunately, as the weeks went by it became apparent that only myself and one other member were committed to the group and the other three members were quite happy to sit back, let us do all the work and take the credit for our efforts. As you can see, my experience of working in an action learning set was not a happy one, and this disappointed me as I had been looking forward to working with new people and I had quite high hopes for our group.
From the beginning I seemed to take on the role of leader of the group, mainly because I am quite authoritative, as well as being very organized, and nobody objected to this. When we were set group tasks we all met up and decided amongst ourselves which area each person was going to do to ensure that all aspects were covered and we could give a good presentation. We also agreed a day and time to meet up and collate our information in time to give the presentation to the rest of the class.
Unfortunately, only I and another member of the group turned up punctually, and the other three members had to be chased to get them to our meeting. When everybody had finally arrived it came to light that only I and one other member of the group had done what we had agreed upon, the other members offered no input whatsoever. When it came to putting the presentation together it was again done by only two of us, and when we got applauded for our presentation it made me very angry that the other members of the group were getting the credit for our hard work.
Although my experience of working in an action learning set was not a good one, I do feel that inter-professional collaboration can only a positive concept when it is working effectively; our team produced good results with only two functioning members, it would have been far better if the other team members had contributed as much. This experience has shown me that although the concept of inter-professional collaboration sounds wonderful, in reality it is much more difficult to achieve. Inter-professional Observations The first observation that I attended was at the combined courts in Burnley.