Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 January 2022
Ethics and interprofessional care are briefly defined to clarify a fourfold pathway for analysis. Beneficence: for whose good and who benefits from working together for health and social care? Confidentiality: how far can trust and private information be upheld for service users, across the differing administrative and professional boundaries? Accountability: to what extent can interprofessional work be held accountable to audit and regulation, to the rules of professional bodies, to management targets as well as to service users? Collaborative governance: as governance increasingly cuts across the public, private and voluntary sectors, how far can partnership working promote user involvement? One challenge for interprofessional care is to ensure that service users gain from these ongoing developments in policy and provision that requires effective evaluation.
Interprofessional care involves a range of terms and meanings that, overall, denote working together for service users across health and social care. However, increasingly the interprofessional field has extended to include, for example, children's services and housing as well as the voluntary and private sectors. The three main interprofessional arenas cover: (a) conceptual issues such as multiprofessional, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary working; (b) the process-based approach such as team working, mergers, partnership working, joint working, collaboration and integration; and (c) the agency-based arena that includes interagency working, health alliances, consortiums, forums, federations and locality groups (Leathard, 2003, p 6).
Ethics relates to moral principles and codes that pertain to the distinction between right and wrong in relation to actions, volitions or to the character of responsible beings. Banks (2004, pp 3-4) makes a further distinction between ethics and professional ethics that covers such issues as the norms and standards of behaviour of members of specific occupational groups; of their sets of accepted values, ethical principles and rules of professional conduct; as well as their first professional loyalty that lies with the client/patient/service user.
From this background, four ethical principles are now applied to the place of interprofessional care: beneficence, confidentiality, accountability and collaborative governance. These principles have been selected as of particular relevance to the field of interprofessional work.
Beneficence underlines the principle that the well-being of the individual ought to be promoted. In a similar sphere, the principle of non-maleficence indicates one ought to do no harm.
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