Partnership working as a matter of life or death

Following the death of Victoria Climbié in 2000, a series of reforms has taken place in children’s services to promote more effective partnerships. As the then health secretary, Alan Milburn, explained: “There were failures at every level and by every organisation which came into contact with Victoria Climbié. Victoria needed services that worked together. Instead the [inquiry] report says there was confusion and conflict. The only sure-fire way to break down the barriers between these services is to break down these barriers altogether.”

In services for people with learning difficulties, an investigation into alleged abuse in Cornwall found that “working relationships between the [NHS] trust and Cornwall County Council had been poor for a considerable time” and that “social services had little involvement in the care provided by the trust, to the detriment of people with learning disabilities”. (1)

In mental health services, a review of mental health homicides identified a lack of partnership working as a common feature of official inquiries (and the fourth most important out of 12 contributing factors) – both in health and social care, as well as with the police, housing and the independent sector. (2)

(1) Healthcare Commission/CSCI (2006), Joint investigation into the provision of services for people with learning disabilities at Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust, Healthcare Commission

(2) McCulloch, A and Parker, C (2004), “Inquiries, assertive outreach and compliance: is there a relationship?” in N Stanley and J Manthorpe (eds) The Age of the Inquiry: Learning and blaming in health and social care, Routledge


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