The dictionary definition of 'to collaborate' is 'to work with another or others on a project.' (Oxford Dictionary 2004). The Department of Health (DoH) defines collaboration as 'a partnership of individuals and organisations formed to enable clients to increase their influence over the factors that affect their health and well-being' (DoH 1998).
Although there is a lot of literature surrounding patient centred care (Patient care in the community DoH 2002, Caring in Many Ways DoH 2004) many articles reviewed do not appear to discuss and indeed neglect to mention the role of the patient as part of the collaborative team. Mackay et al (1995) see interprofessional working as crossing occupational boundaries and setting aside rightness of ones' views of health care so that we may listen to what other professionals say. This is endorsed by Health Visitor's Association (HVA 1996) cited by Baileff (2000 p41) who define integrated nursing as 'a team of community based nurses from different disciplines, working together within a primary care setting pooling their skills, knowledge and ability to provide the most effective care within a practice and the community it covers.' This is recognised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and is often cited in the literature concerning collaboration (Baileff 2000.)
However I have discovered evidence to support my opinion that central to the theme of collaborative practice is the relationship between professionals and patients. An illustration is that interprofessional working is practitioners making a commitment to work with each other across boundaries for the benefit of the patient (Freeman et al 2000). Whitehead (1999) has also remarked that partnership between client and nurse should be regarded as part of the collaborative framework as well as in a team context.
The theme of promoting collaborative working between social and health care is high on political agendas. In 1997 the DoH stated that the National Health Service (NHS) needed to be modernised in order to meet patient's aspirations for up-to-date, quicker, more responsive services. To illustrate this; one of the core principles in The NHS Plan (2000) states that 'The NHS will work together with others to ensure a seamless service for patients.' Furthermore recent documents Our Healthier Nation (DoH 1999) and Clinical Governance (NHSE 1999) state that collaboration is an integral component of practice so that they can respond better to the priorities of local patients and frontline staff. The Government proposed teams of local General Practitioners (GPs) and community nurses working together in new Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to shape services for patients. This means that PCTs will also take responsibility for commissioning services for the local community.
The Primary Care Act 1997 (DoH, 1997), emphasised seven areas for action, among these was the inclusion of working partnerships and encouraging collaboration. Supporters found that teams are more capable of providing comprehensive services to communities than nurses who work alone (Young...