Working in Partnership: Flexible Experiences

Date01 September 2002
Publication Date01 September 2002
AuthorJohn Chapman,Ruth Smith
SubjectHealth & social care
Working in Partnership:
Flexible Experiences
John Chapman
Bevan Ashford Solicitors
Ruth Smith
Bevan Ashford Solicitors
Focus on…
HS bodies and local authorities were
given a new way to work in partnership by Section 31
of the Health Act 1999 and the associated Partnership
Regulations,1through the introduction of the Health
Act flexibilities. Although effective from1 April 2000,
the flexibilities were initially viewed with caution and
take-up was rather slow. However, we are now seeing
a rapid expansion in the number of schemes as
potential partners become familiar with the new
powers and can draw on the experiences of earlier
In the area of mental health, new partnership
schemes are already taking shape. These began even
before the Health Act flexibilities were introduced with
the Somerset Partnership Initiative, the first fully
integrated mental health service in England, made up
of a joint commissioning board at county level and an
integrated service provider. The most recent flagship
scheme is the former Camden and Islington Mental
Health NHS Trust, which integrated with the social
services teams in the London boroughs of Camden
and Islington to become one of the first of four care
trusts2established on 1 April 2002.
In this article, we explore the legal framework
governing partnerships and some of the practical
issues that potential partners will face. We also look at
how partners can build on the experiences of some of
the first partnership schemes and, for the future, the
role that care trusts will play.
NWhy introduce the
Health Act
The fundamental principle that must be at the heart
of any partnership scheme is improvement.
Joint working should lead to improvement in
standards, quality and delivery of services and should
help to fulfil the objectives of the Health
Improvement Plan. The service user must be the
partners’ main focus.
What are the benefits of a partnership?
Successful partnerships and their service users can
reap a variety of benefits. With the increasing focus on
‘one-stop shops’ in all areas of society, a seamless
health and social care service for service users is the
most effective and efficient way forward. Partnership
arrangements help to break down historical and often
artificial barriers. Services can be co-ordinated and
better designed to meet the particular needs of the
local community.
By working together, partners are faced with new
challenges. They have opportunities to develop and
grow together, while sharing experiences and
In addition, the principles of best value and clinical
governance continue to apply to partnership
arrangements and ensure standards of service delivery
are maintained.
The Mental Health Review Volume 7 Issue 3 September 2002 ©Pavilion Publishing (Brighton) 2002 19
1NHS Bodies and Local Authorities Partnership Arrangements Regulations 2000 (SI 2000 No 617).
2 Care trusts can be established by virtue of s45 of the

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