The report, 'In The Patients Interest' highlights how the distinction between the family doctor, hospital and social services is no longer clear cut and health service professionals must respond to changing patients' needs. Advances in technology and modern medicine have allowed an increasing number of patients to be treated closer to their homes.
The study was conducted by the Standing Medical and Nursing & Midwifery Committees, which provide professional advice to Health ministers on the provision of healthcare, and follows a request by Gerald Malone, minister for health, in December 1994, to look at professional collaboration in the delivery of patient services.
Seven important themes which underpin collaboration between health professionals were established by the study team: partnerships with patients and carers; the commissioning process; inter-agency collaboration; professional collaboration and teamwork; professional education and training; communication and information-sharing; research and development.
Explicit recognition of their importance was seen as important in overcoming barriers of organisation and attitude.
Mr Malone said: 'Today's report provides a springboard for innovative action. The professionals at the sharp end have given a clear indication that patient care could be improved through more integrated working and I support them in that objective. I'm sure that this package of practical measures will receive widespread support, with patients benefiting as best practice becomes common practice.'