Good multi-disciplinary working is key to providing high quality patient care.

This work aims to establish a meaning of inter-professional, multi-disciplinary, multi-agency and collaborative working and evaluate its success or failure in the provision of good quality patient care. This work will identify models of teamwork and determine.

Historically, health and social care organisations have operated independently, each encompassing differing professionals and agencies (Carnwell and Buchanan 2009). Each organisation has operated within its own management structure, policies, procedures and codes of conduct (Glasby and Dickenson 2008). However, effective practice in the twenty-first century recognises that the needs of patients/service users/clients can seldom be met by a single agency, as patients frequently have complex needs which p both health and social care services (Callaghan 2009). Equally, during the past decade there have been a variety of changes in the context of health and social care provision in the United Kingdom (Carnwell and Buchanan 2009). Health and social care delivery is moving from the traditional acute care settings into community based settings and patient/client homes (NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement 2006). This transition in service delivery requires health and social care agencies to work collaboratively, and in partnership with the patient/service user.
Currently there are a plethora of definitions/terminologies used to describe health and social care professionals and agencies working together. Glasby and Dickenson (2008) suggest that partnership/inter-agency working may be defined as; health and social care agencies working cooperatively to provide cohesive care to patients/service users. Miers and Pollard (2009) suggest that ‘interprofessional’ working describes people belonging to a profession relating with one another for the mutual benefit of those concerned. This interpretation suggests a sharing of information and experience by professionals, resulting in a possible outcome unachievable by individuals (Mathias and Thompson 2001). Inter-professional working also incorporates an element of education amongst those involved, improving professional knowledge (Hammick 2009). A multi-disciplinary team is a term utilised to describe a group of professionals and other staff members, led by a team leader, working together to achieve a common objective (Fraser and Matthews 2008). Lowe and O’Hara (2000) suggest that multi-disciplinary teams aid the development of client focused services, promoting a holistic approach to care delivery. However, it may be argued that traditional professional boundaries are being blurred as professionals strive to deliver quality client-centred care, and this may be evident within multi-disciplinary teams (Baxter and Brumfitt 2008). Nonetheless, a multi-disciplinary team approach may result in an improvement in communication between healthcare professionals which leads to a more co-ordinated service delivery and lessens the likelihood of service users falling between services (Cook 2001).
Multi-agency working relates to several health, social care public, private sector and voluntary organisations working together on a specific task (Day 2006). It may be suggested that multi-agency working may bring agencies together, but also suggests that whilst there is communication between the agencies there is little collaboration, merely the aim of completing the task (Day 2006). However, it is possible to challenge this perception as sharing professional knowledge provides the opportunity to work and learn from one another, resulting in collaborative working (Hammick 2009).
Collaborative working may be described as a complex multidimensional concept necessitating teamwork, communication, cooperation, multi-agency, multi-disciplinary and inter-professional interactions (Suter 2009). Collaboration requires the sharing of information, knowledge and resources to achieve a desired goal (Suter 2009).
Baxter, S and Brumfitt, S (2008) Professional differences in interprofessional working, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 22:3 239-251
Callaghan, P, Playle, J and Cooper, L (2009) Mental Health Nursing Skills, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Carnwell, R and Buchanan, J (2009) Effective Practice in Health, Social Care and Criminal Justice: A Partnership Approach, (2nd Edition)(Ed), Berkshire: Open University Press
Cook, G, Gerrish, K and Clarke, C (2001) Decision-making in teams: issues arising from two UK evaluations, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 15:2, 141-151
Day, J (2006) Interprofessional Working: Expanding Nursing and Healthcare practice, Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Limited
Fraser, S and Matthews, S (2008) The Critical Practitioner in Social Work and Health Care, London: Sage Publications Limited
Glasby, J and Dickenson, H (2008) Partnership working in health and social care, Bristol: The Policy Press
Hammick, M, Freeth, D, Copperman, J and Goodsman, D (2009) Being Interprofessional, Cambridge: Polity Press
Mathias, P and Thompson, T (2001) ‘Interprofessional and multi-agency working’, In: Thompson, J and Pickering, S (2001)(Ed) Meeting the Health Needs of People who have a Learning Disability, London: Bailliere Tindall
Miers, M and Pollard, K (2009) The role of nurses in interprofessional health and social care teams, Nursing Management, 15;9, 30-35
NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement (2006) Making the Shift: Key Success Factors: A rapid review of best practice in shifting hospital care into the community, Retrieved on 27th March 2011 from:
Suter, E, Arndt, J, Arther, N, Parboosingh, J, Taylor, E, Deutschlander, S (2009) Role understanding and effective communication as core competencies for collaborative practice, Journal of Interprofessional care, 23:1, 41-51

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