Published: 17/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5943 Page 36

It is widely accepted that getting various healthcare professionals to learn together helps them become more effective members of inter-disciplinary health teams. But how do you achieve this?

Over the past five years North West London strategic health authority has been developing a model of interprofessional learning that delivers real benefits in the training of allied health professionals, doctors, nurses and midwives.

Because of the diversity and number of stakeholders (eight acute trusts, eight primary care trusts, two mental health trusts and four key higher education providers) a robust if complicated management structure is an essential element.

We have a steering group with boardlevel/head of faculty-level representatives from each organisation. Reporting to this is a management group, which includes reps and student reps from all the universities, and it meets quarterly.

A group comprised of senior staff from each university, with one or two trust representatives, explored the options for common assessments. We agreed to have common learning outcomes for all students, which would be assessed within existing university systems and curricula, but explicitly stating where this took place.

Initially we found that small interprofessional group sessions of students with facilitators from all the professions involved worked best.

Although administratively very demanding, it served as a launch pad from which individual trusts could then develop their own flexible models.

These may take any form provided the common learning outcomes will be furthered, that facilitation is undertaken by clinical staff who normally work as a team, and that the learning style is interactive.

The model has had to be adapted to the particular conditions in primary care as third-year medical students spend very little time in the community, and often nursing students are the only ones on placements. More creative working with mentors is necessary, and individual opportunities with multidisciplinary teams undertaken.

Fanny Mitchell is project manager for IPL at North West London workforce development confederation.