This chapter explores the nature and importance of communication between health professionals, both those within teams and those working in wider collaborations. We consider how complex communication may be when patient and client care is shared between many professionals. Trust, feedback and the skill to delegate appropriately are essential to optimise communication and collaboration and enhance patient safety. Team meetings and good record keeping are other elements of communication to consider.
The importance of communication between all professionals working with the same patients was highlighted by the now well-known circumstances that occurred in Bristol in the UK, and this case is often referred to as a turning point in patient care. The inquiry into the performance of paediatric heart surgeons in Bristol found that poor communication between different professionals was a factor in the adverse clinical outcomes for the babies involved (Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry, 2001). In this hospital setting the professionals may well have identified that they were working in a team, but other recent high profile cases, such as that of Baby P (again in the UK), also show a lack of coordinated care across organisations and failure to discuss concerns by the disparate groups of health and social care professionals and agencies involved.