Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2022
Since 1997, interagency working has taken centre stage in the new initiatives for health and social care. An increasing number of collaborative endeavours have been set up but, with some exceptions, little has been evaluated, even less where the views of service users have been involved. This review presents the issues surrounding evaluation where interagency working is concerned. In this light, some relevant projects that have been assessed will be considered. The political issues relevant to interagency evaluation will be set out, followed by the place of the policy arena with the focus on the assessment of collaborative health and social care provision. The views and outcomes for service users will be discussed in order to perceive ways forward towards a more integrated form of interagency evaluation. It has to be appreciated at the outset that in the field of interprofessional, multidisciplinary and partnership working between health and social care, initially little was addressed with regard to the place of evaluation, so we set off into somewhat innovative territory.
The pathway for analysis
The evaluation of interagency working: purpose and responsibility
In seeking the purpose of evaluating interagency work, one problem is that rarely have projects been set up with evaluation in mind which comes (if and when) some while after the initiatives have been installed. For example, the need for agencies to work together could come about as a result of an organisational merger whose main purpose is usually to cut costs. The place of evaluation is therefore not an immediate issue. Other recent developments have come through one of the numerous initiatives and changes brought in by recent government policy: care trusts would be one example whereby a new level of primary care trust has been encouraged to integrate health and social services into one organisation by common agreement from April 2002 (DH, 2001). Just how far a meaningful evaluation of care trusts can be undertaken remains to be seen, as does the purpose of such an exercise together with the responsibility involved. Other key questions for interagency evaluation need to be established at the outset, alongside the purpose of such an exercise, as well as the responsibility involved:
• By who and for whom is the exercise intended?
• Who should be responsible for undertaking and/or funding interagency evaluation: jointly or by an outside agency and with what intended outcome?