CAIPE Co-Chair Professor Liz Anderson & CAIPE Board member Andreas Xyrichis quoted in British Medical Journal: “Why medicine must catch up on interprofessional education for a safer NHS”

Different professions training together is often cited as a solution in health service safety reports. Yet much remains to be done to implement it—and to ensure medicine doesn’t get left behind, finds Emma Wilkinson, freelance journalist.

A long line of reports into safety in the NHS, including most recently Donna Ockenden’s review of maternity services in Shrewsbury, have raised concerns about a lack of communication and “conflicting agendas” between healthcare staff. Although the challenges of team working are not specific to healthcare, this is a setting where the “effect of poor relationships and collaboration can have catastrophic long-term consequences,” Ockenden noted.

One oft cited solution is making better use of interprofessional education at the undergraduate level and beyond. As early as the 1970s the World Health Organization made the case that health professionals learning together would build a stronger workforce that could respond better to the needs of the population. Yet current medical students paint a varied picture of their experience: from a few tickbox exercises through to some noting that learning from and with other groups was the most useful thing they had done. And experts say that even more is needed to improve interprofessional education after graduation.

Lack of understanding and progress

The UK based Centre for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education (CAIPE) defines interprofessional education as “occasions when members or students of two or more professions learn with, from, and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care and services.”

CAIPE’s joint chair Liz Anderson, who also leads on patient safety and interprofessional education at Leicester Medical School, says there is often a lack of understanding about what interprofessional education really is. It is not simply multidisciplinary training where different healthcare professionals come together to train on a topic of common value, she explains. “[At Leicester] we put a group of students together, give them learning outcomes that mean they need each other, and send them into the clinical context, going and talking to people and working out their problems.”

At its core should be the patient experience and patient safety, says Sandra Nicholson, founding dean at Three Counties Medical School in Worcester. “It isn’t necessarily, ‘Oh yes, let’s learn to work in teams’—as important as that is—but it’s to learn to work in teams to the benefit of a patient.”

Read more BMJ 2022;377:o1547

Why Medicine must catch up on interprofessional education for a safer NHS