In the recent past, various industry players in the health and social care sectors have opted for partnership working in order to facilitate their ability to deliver high quality services.Partnership working refers to a collaborative work between two or more individuals, governments, agencies or organizations with shared interests. Two or more parties that would like to address specific goals and objectives or achieve certain goals usually create a partnership working; for example, police officers may work together with members of a community in order to improve social security within a given area or community. Similarly, healthcare institutions such as dispensaries and hospitals may work with the community to help in controlling the spread of a particular disease such as cholera. Douglas (2009) defines a partnership working as a condition in which individuals work across the boundaries of two or more organizations with an aim of attaining specific goals or positive results.
According to Douglas (2009), it is important for individuals or organizations in a working partnership to ensure that there are adequate communication, coordination of activities, and cooperation between the concerned partners so as to facilitate realization and achievement of the target goals and objectives. In the last few years, partnership working in health and social care services has become a central focus for the industry players as well as government agencies.
This essay will review various philosophies of working in partnerships in health and social care services and the barriers faced by organizations in partnership working. It will also provide an analysis of partnership relationships within health and social care sectors. Moreover, this essay also looks at some of the models of partnership working across the health and social care sectors and possible strategies that may be adopted by organizations in attempt to improve partnership working in the two sectors.
Reasons Why Organizations Choose to Work in Partnerships. According to Balloch and Taylor (2011), organizations usually choose partnership working in order to improve their abilities to deliver highly coordinated health and social care services. Organizations also choose to work in partnerships so as to be able to effectively tackle various issues or problems that might be too complex to be tackled by a single organization; for example, community policing services by the police and other security agencies or implementation of new healthcare programs that aim at improving community health by the national government. Organizations in the health and social care sectors also enter into working partnerships so that they may easily provide services across various traditional and cultural boundaries. For instance, healthcare centres in United States may work closely with cultural organizations that have adequate understanding of the Spanish culture so as to enable them provide health and social care services that are in line with Spanish culture.
Additionally, organizations may choose to work in partnerships so that they may reduce gaps in provision and delivery of health and social care services. This is achieved through pooling together of various resources such as medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and personnel that are required for efficient provision of health and social care services.
Glasby and Littlechild (2002) also assert that partnership working also enables organizations to provide a wider range of services more effectively. This has resulted into increased satisfaction of consumers as well as provided more health and social care benefits to the target consumers. Lastly, organizations may choose to work in partnerships in order to enable them meet various statutory requirements imposed by regulatory authorities such as the national and federal governments.
Philosophies of Working in Partnerships in Health and Social Care Sectors. Various philosophies have been formed to facilitate partnership working between organizations in health and social care sectors. Some of these philosophies include empowerment of partner organizations, interdependence, autonomy and respect, power sharing, and making of informed decisions.
Firstly, organizations involved in partnership working must be able to empower each other through adequate coordination of activities and cooperation. This increases the ability of the partnering organizations to achieve the target goals and objectives.
Secondly, organizations working as partners in provision of health and social care services may depend on each other for financial, economic or social support. Interdependence between the partnering organizations usually helps in coordination of activities and resources as well as sharing of information needed for making decisions. For example, a social care institution may liaise with a charity organization that supplies it with food items and other basics to use in taking care of the old people.
Thirdly, although collaborating organizations may depend on each other, the level of interdependency must be limited to a certain extent. In other words, each individual organization must be able to stand on its own irrespective of the partnership working. For example, a rehabilitation centre that provides services to drug addicts may collaborate with an association of psychologists. At the same time, it should be able to continue providing rehabilitation services in the absence of psychologists from the association. However, it is important to note that although organizations may work autonomously, their actions may have either negative or positive influences on the other partner organizations; hence, great caution should be taken.
Fourthly, Balloch and Taylor (2011) assert that any form of partnership demands mutual respect between the concerned parties. In my opinion, mutual respect between collaborating organizations in health and social cares sectors would facilitate smooth flow of activities as well as help in creation of strong inter-organizational relationships between the partners.
For effective collaboration, organizations working as partners must share duties and responsibilities equally. For example, one organization may be assigned with the responsibility of providing healthcare services to the community, whereas another organization is responsible for provision of financial or educational services to the customers. From my part, the collaborating organizations must have specific obligations towards each other as well as to the customers.
Finally, organizations working as partners in health and social care sectors must be able to make informed decisions for the benefit of each other as well as the customers. For example, an organization that supplies pharmaceutical products or drugs to a health centre should make such deliveries at the most appropriate time to avoid shortage of drugs within the facility. Making of informed decisions is usually facilitated through adequate communication and sharing of information between the collaborating organizations.
Evaluation of Partnership Relationships within Health and Social Care Sectors. In my opinion, partnership relations between industry players in health and social care sectors have not been very strong. For example, most elderly people and persons with disabilities have not been able to have adequate access to the services offered by healthcare and social-care service providers. Glasby and Littlechild (2004) also assert that most people who are old as well as persons with disabilities have been discriminated against in certain services. Similarly, persons with learning disabilities and mental health issues have also been discriminated by social care service providers; for instance, such persons are not given chances to make decisions regarding their health and various forms of treatment that they may receive like surgeries and operations.
Refugees and asylum seekers are other groups of people who have been sidelined in relation to provision of health and social care services. For example, a survey research conducted by Sussex, Scourfield, and Herne (2008) to determine the ability of refugees and asylum seekers to access medical services in public hospitals revealed that there are certain bureaucracies that aim at discouraging an admission of such patients into public hospitals.
However, Glasby and Peck (2004) reported that there is an improvement in partnership relationships between providers of health and social care services and other professionals. For instance, health workers and doctors have been collaborating with biochemists and chemical engineers in development of more effective drugs.
In addition, most service providers in health and social care sectors have been collaborating with government agencies, private companies, non-governmental organizations, and other charitable institutions in order to improve the quality of services offered.
On the contrary, most organizations in the health and social care sectors that are in working partnerships are more focused on potential benefits that individual organizations may reap from the arrangements, thus ignoring the negative impact that such arrangements may have on the entire health and social care industry. In my view, providers of health and social care services should focus on effective delivery of high quality services rather than organizational benefits reaped from working in partnerships.
Analysis of Models of Partnership Working Across the Health and Social Care Sectors. Four main models characterize partnership working across health and social care sectors. These models are: separation of organizations with legal identities, creation of virtual organizations where partners create separate identities without legal arrangements, co-allocation of staff members from collaborating organizations, and creation of steering groups that are obliged with delivery of all the coordinated services across organizational boundaries.
Firstly, organizations that intend to work in partnerships must be legal entities that are separate from each other. The organizations then come together to create a virtual entity that may have no legal identity. A virtual organization provides a platform for interaction between the collaborating organizations. After creation of the virtual organization, the partnering entities then allocate staff members as well as mobilize other resources that may be needed for effective collaboration. For effective coordination, planning, and control of activities between the partnering organizations, a steering group is created to oversee such duties. According to Jon and Helen (2010), the steering group should be free from bias and influence from either organization involved in the partnership working.
In addition to the above models, providers of health and social care services also must have certain basic principles that are essential for the partnership working. These principles include absolute openness, trust and honesty between the partnering organizations, an agreement to work collectively towards the achievement of set goals and objectives, and regular communication and exchange of ideas between the partnering organizations.
Review Current Legislations and Organizational Practices and Policies for Partnership Working in Health and Social Care Sectors
Some of the current legislations for partnership working in health and social care sectors include: active involvement of users during provision of services, need to seek consent of the patient before performing life-threatening medical treatments such as surgeries and operations, and monitoring, regulation, and commissioning of health and social care services by the local authorities and government agencies. The Health, Social Care and Well-Being Regulations of 2003 also authorize local authorities to formulate and implement various strategies and policies that aim at improving the quality of health and social care services.
In addition, the Community Care Act of 1990 and Health Act of 1999 regulate the provision of health and social care services. These two Acts advocate for mutual benefit of organizations involved in partnership working in the health and social care sectors.
On the other hand, creation of a learning environment, lobbying for implementation of certain policies by the government, and ensuring full compliance with regulations are some of the current organizational practices and policies that organizations in partnership working have adopted. Moreover, most service providers in health and social care sectors have also joined professional bodies such as the Associations of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) so as to be able to learn emerging issues and trends in their professional fields.
Similarly, health and social care sectors have also experienced an influx of professional volunteers who would like to offer their services for free. In my view, such professionals often aim at helping to improve the lives of other people.
How Differences in Working Practices and Policies may Affect Collaborative Working between Organizations in Health and Social Care Sectors
In my opinion, differences in working practices and policies amongst organizations in partnership working have resulted into an increase in number of inter-organizational conflicts. This has hindered the efficiency and effectiveness of delivering heath and social care services to the users. In addition, differences in employment policies have led to recruitment of inappropriate staff members, thus risking the termination or fall of the partnership working. Lack of proper employment policies may also lead to unclear definition of roles and responsibilities for members of the steering group.
Moreover, differences in monitoring and evaluation techniques for assessing operations of the partnerships may lead to lower achievements. Confidentiality and reduced access to information held by other parties in the partnership working also leads to suspicion and reduced collaboration between the partners.
Evaluation of Possible Outcomes of Partnership Working for Users of Services, Professionals, and Organizations
Some of the possible outcomes of partnership working for organizations in health and social care sectors, users and other professionals include increased ability of healthcare providers to offer high quality and well-coordinated services to the users. In return, the users will be more satisfied.
In my view, partnership working arrangements between service providers in healthcare sectors may also lead to increased training and employment opportunities for health professionals such as nurses, doctors, and social workers.
Moreover, organizations involved in working partnerships would also be able to provide and manage a broader range of health and social care services that effectively meet the needs and wants of consumers or patients.
Through partnership working, health and social care service providers would be able to develop a deeper understanding of the health care industry as well as social care sector. Similarly, organizations will learn new skills and expertise on how to deal with the patients more effectively.
Analysis of Potential Barriers to Partnership Working in Health and Social Care Services. Although it is widely presumed that partnership working usually leads to increased ability of individuals or organizations to provide better services, there are numerous challenges that are faced by organizations in working partnership in health and social care sectors. Such barriers have hindered the effectiveness of working partnerships in the two sectors.
First, most organizations in working partnerships have been suffering from lack of adequate understanding between the partners. Misunderstandings have also led to the development of misconceptions and biases against other organizations. For example, there has been a persistent misunderstanding between public correctional centres and private rehabilitation centers in relation to rehabilitation of former inmates.
Secondly, most organizations in working partnerships are often faced with conflicts. According to Dickinson (2010), conflicts are likely to occur when partnering organizations do not develop clear organizational boundaries or appropriately assign duties and responsibilities to each other. For example, in a working partnership between a private hospital and a non-governmental organization, conflicts of interest is likely to occur if the partnering organizations do not clearly lay down responsibilities of each partner. Similarly, a conflict may arise if any of the partners focuses more on selfish interest other than mutual benefits.
Thirdly, partnering organizations have also been challenged with reluctance or reduced commitment of partner organizations towards the achievement of set goals and objectives. In my view, this has led to poor or underperformance of the partnering organizations, for example, a social care centre that provides home for elderly people may not fully achieve its goals due to reluctance to admit new elderly people as a result of increased cost of living as well as increasing in number in number of aging population.
Fourthly, Jon and Helen (2010) also reported that some organizations in partnership working in health and social care sectors are reluctant to share information, ideas, knowledge, and skills as well as other resources that are vital for achievement of their goals and objectives. This usually results into poor coordination and cooperation between the organizations.
Fifthly, at the early stages of development of partnership working, most organizations are usually reluctant to commit their time to the arrangement. This inadequate allocation of time by the partnering organizations usually leads to lagged operations. In addition, lack of adequate training and development opportunities for staff members of the steering group has also been reported as a major barrier to partnership working amongst organizations in health and social care industries.
Other barriers that are faced by organizations working as partners in health and social care sectors include: political influence, lack of adequate finances or funding for proper management and coordination of activities, and other organizational specific weaknesses such as rigid or inflexible organizational culture and bureaucracy.
Strategies for Improving Outcomes for Partnership Working in Health and Social Care Services. In my opinion, it is important for the concerned partners to develop and implement appropriate strategies for overcoming the above-mentioned barriers or problems. Some of the strategies that may be developed by organizations include: adequate recognition and maximum utilization of the strengths and resources of all the organizations involved in the partnership working, optimizing the use of available resources through proper management of people, operations and coordination of organizational activities, and adoption of cost effective methods of operations.
The partnering organizations may also develop a wider base of staff members that are highly capable of meeting the target goals as well as ensuring maximum satisfaction of customers. The organizations should also develop appropriate strategies that aim at improving mutual understanding between the partnering organizations.
According to Leathard (2007), providers of health and social care services may also pool together their resources and carry out joint trainings for their staff members. In my view, appropriate training and development of employees would improve the abilities of the organizations to achieve their set goals such as provision of high quality services to patients. The partnering organizations should also lay down clear strategies, procedures, policies, related protocols, and systems for sharing of information, ideas, knowledge, and skills amongst them. For example, no organization should hide from or make unavailable any information that it deems crucial and important for achievement of partnership goals and objectives.
Moreover, the organizations must also develop strategies for monitoring and evaluation of their activities in the partnership working. For example, the organizations should specify the indicators for achievement of projects or activities aimed at improving health and social care services within a given community. In my opinion, strategies for monitoring and evaluation should be set for both the partnership arrangement and all other services rendered by the partnership.
In my view, partnership working between organizations is very vital for effective delivery of healthcare services. Carnwell and Buchanan (2006) also supported this notion by a research that they carried out to determine the effectiveness and impact of partnership working between health and social care service providers. Thus, I would recommend that industry players in health and social care sectors should develop and implement appropriate strategies and policies that would enhance their ability to provide high quality services to customers.
Moreover, adequate partnerships between organizations in the two sectors should be created to facilitate provision of such essential services. Organizations that enter into partnerships should share information freely as well as properly coordinate operations between them to enable realization of goals and objectives of their partnerships.
In conclusion, I would assert that partnership working is a multifaceted arrangement between different organizations that aims at improving the operations and performances of the concerned parties. It is complex and involves activities such as planning, employee training and development, monitoring and evaluation of service provision as well as creation of close relationships with users of the services. The complexity of partnership working also poses various challenges to the partners that require appropriate address or solutions.