Integration of health, education and social care in the academic world. Where is it?
During 2018 and 2019 I carried out some informal research about what is happening in the academic world to promote integration between education, health and social care. Such integration, or joint working, has a potential to improve support for babies, children, adults and old people who need support from their local services for one reason or another. In 2020 in ‘Integration Made Possible: A practical manual for joint working’, I wrote:
‘This Topic comes quite late in the Manual but it could have been placed at the beginning. Students studying to be health, education or social care practitioners who are taught to work with others across discipline boundaries will take integration in their stride when they begin their professional work. It has never seemed logical or fair to expect practitioners to settle easily into joint working arrangements when they have had no experience of it or preparation for it in their university or college courses.
This lack in education and training has been a long-term obstacle to integration. Relevant professional training would: encourage practitioners to see the whole picture of a person’s condition and situation in addition to the more focused concern their discipline requires; offer a systems perspective emphasising interconnections and interdependence; provide opportunities in lectures and projects to mix with people on other courses to learn about their studies, concerns, practice, ethics, etc.
Universities and colleges could practice joint working as well as teaching it. Health, education and social care academics could work with each other in research, projects and writing course programmes. This would facilitate lecturers and students mixing with each other across disciplines and, importantly, generate research programmes in the subject of integration around people who have special needs.’
So, in my view, we need the academic world to offer courses that integrate health, education and social care to prepare students for joint working. We also need their health, education and social care departments to collaborate on relevant research about support for people in need and on research projects about multiagency, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary teamwork.
My informal research covered all colleges and universities I could find in the UK and Ireland (North and South) and had two strands:
- I studied their websites for courses that in some way integrated health, education and social care for people training to be medics, teachers or social workers.
- I collected e-mail addresses in the process and wrote to 1500 lecturers and professors with my questions about integrated teaching and integrated research.
Nothing resulted from this long un-funded effort. I found no evidence of health, education and social care integration in teaching or research except that someone in the Open University was thinking about some course integration (no more news came about this) and there were a few courses in small colleges preparing people to be care workers that seemed to introduce students to health, education and social care services.
I was thoroughly disheartened by this academic vacuum - and then this initiative was halted as the pandemic began. If we want managers and practitioners to think and act beyond their silos, we must offer training and research in which academics also think and act beyond their silos.
Peter Limbrick. January 2023