Primary Care Primary care groups

Progress in partnerships

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 07 July 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:28
  1. Caroline Glendinning (, professor of social policya,
  2. Anna Coleman, research fellowa,
  3. Cathy Shipman, research fellowb,
  4. Gill Malbon, research fellowb
  1. a National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
  2. b King's Fund, London W1M 0AN
  1. Correspondence to: C Glendinning

    This is the fourth in a series of five articles

    Partnership—between organisations, services, and frontline staff—is widely promoted as an alternative to large scale structural reorganisation of the relation between the NHS and local government. However, there is still relatively little evidence on the effectiveness and outcomes of such partnerships. One of the difficulties in establishing an evidence base is the wide variety of relationships that can be described as partnerships. A second difficulty is the risk that working in partnership may be regarded as an end in itself rather than as the means to an end. The Audit Commission identified four potential areas of focus for groups working in partnership in public services (box).1 However, implementing these activities and measuring progress is far from easy.

    Summary points

    Primary care groups and trusts are expected to develop partnerships with local authorities, particularly for commissioning services and developing services for older people

    Nearly half of the groups and trusts surveyed do not routinely consult with social services when commissioning community health services, and even fewer consult with social services about commissioning acute care

    Relationships between frontline social services staff and community based and practice based health professionals are improving

    The development of robust partnerships may be threatened by disruption to established relations as primary care groups merge or become trusts

    The Health Act 1999 imposed a duty on all NHS organisations to work in partnership. Nowhere has working in partnership been given more backing than in the relations between the NHS and local authorities, where collaboration is required to tackle “wicked issues”1—that is, complex problems like health improvement, community safety, and community care. Primary care groups and trusts are required to give priority to forming partnerships with local authorities' social services departments, especially in developing services for older people. In …

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