Multidisciplinary teams

Multidisciplinary teams consist of staff from several different professional backgrounds who have different areas of expertise. These teams are able to respond to clients who require the help of more than one kind of professional. Multidisciplinary teams are often discussed in the same context as joint working, interagency work and partnership working.

Multidisciplinary teams have evolved at varying speeds in different parts over the past 30 years or so in response to imperatives of central government. Mental health was among the first professions to adopt teams of workers from different professions. The community mental health team (CMHT) is widely regarded as the model for multi-disciplinary working.

Key issues

Social workers are increasingly working within multidisciplinary teams, such as youth offending, community mental health and community learning difficulty teams. In these settings social work may not be the predominant profession and practitioners may feel marginalised.

Some social workers have expressed concern that their professional identity could suffer in multidisciplinary teams where other professions take the lead.

Legislation and policy

A number of legislative and policy developments have contributed to the increased use of multidisciplinary teams.

The Single Assessment Process (SAP) was introduced in 2003 as a way of providing assessments for older adults with health or social care needs. It aimed to reduce the number of separate social work and nursing assessments for older people it indicated that older people services should be provided by multidisciplinary teams.

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) have also adopted multidisciplinary teams. Department of Health guidance includes Developing High Quality Multi-disciplinary CAMHS Teams.

As multidisciplinary working has increased in areas such as mental health, the sharp distinctions between professional roles has blurred. For instance, the Mental Health Act 2007 introduced the approved mental health professional (AMHP) which broadened the group of practitioners who can take on the functions previously performed by the approved social worker (ASW).

Examples of multidisciplinary teams

Community Mental Health Teams

The community mental health team (CMHT) is widely regarded as the model for all multi-disciplinary teams. Social workers and community psychiatric nurses are the mainstay of CMHTs. Other professionals include occupational therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists.

Youth Offending Teams

These were set up after the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and consist of social workers, probation officers, housing, employment and educational professionals. They are monitored by the Youth Justice Board.

More on YOTs

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)

CAMHS are multidisciplinary teams working in a community mental health clinic or child psychiatry outpatient service. These provide a specialised service for children and young people with mental health disorders. Team members are likely to include child psychiatrists, social workers, clinical psychologists, community psychiatric nurses, child psychotherapists, occupational therapists, art, music and drama therapists.

Related articles

Protecting social work’s core values

How to work in multidisciplinary teams

Defining ways of explaining to multidisciplinary colleagues what social work is 

CareSpace

External Links

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)

Youth Offending Teams

Mental Health

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