Working Collaboratively with Colleagues: the Professional’s Duties

Regulated Professionals have a responsibility to work with other colleagues in a collaborative fashion. Personal rivalries, biases and beliefs should not come into play in the workplace. And yet each year a number of professionals are referred to their regulators or disciplinary processes as a consequence of their alleged poor behaviour towards colleagues. Working collaboratively is expressly mentioned in many codes of conduct for professionals. By way of example, we cite the NMC’s, GMC’s, and Teachers’ codes, below:

The NMC Code states that nurses and midwives must ‘work co-operatively’ by:

  • respecting the skills, expertise and contributions of your colleagues, 
  • referring matters to them when appropriate; 
  • maintain effective communication with colleagues; 
  • keep colleagues informed when you are sharing the care of individuals with other health and care professionals and staff  
  • work with colleagues to evaluate the quality of your work and that of the team
  • work with colleagues to preserve the safety of those receiving care 
  • share information to identify and reduce risk

Good Medical Practice also states that doctors must work collaboratively with colleagues:

  • You must work collaboratively with colleagues, respecting their skills and contributions.
  • You must treat colleagues fairly and with respect
  • You must be aware of how your behaviour may influence others within and outside the team.

The Department of Education’s publication Teachers’ Standards requires that teachers should:

  • develop effective professional relationships with colleagues, knowing how and when to draw on advice and specialist support.

The aim of doing the job of a professional is of course to get it done and get it done well, within a reasonable amount of time. So when a professional is actively preventing others from being able to fully focus and commit to their work, because of a lack of collaboration, other staff and their client groups may be directly or indirectly impacted.

It is obvious that is it]s essential for patient safety that all healthcare professionals communicate effectively with colleagues from other health and social care disciplines. Multidisciplinary teams can bring benefits to patient care when communication is timely and relevant. It is also clear that a teacher who fails to work collaboratively could cause the wider teaching staff to be caused stress and be taken away from the core work that they should be focussing on.

While some professionals will have become irritable and difficult to work with due to their personal ill-health or stress, on occasions it can be due to deep-seated attitudinal problems, which means that they are unfit to work as a regulated professional. Professionals have been struck off for being constantly difficult.

Problems can arise when communication is poor or responsibilities are unclear from higher up the management chain. Some professionals will therefore be misjudged by others for their conduct when they have in fact acted in good faith.

All regulated professionals must therefore follow their codes, making sure that they communicate relevant information clearly to colleagues within their team, to their peers, juniors and seniors, and other services or people that they work. This is particularly important when patient care, student teaching, or other delegated work is shared between professional teams.

Any problems arising from poor communication could result in a fitness to practise investigation or disciplinary processes.

If you are a professional facing allegations of failing to collaborate with colleagues, clients or others, contact Barristers.London without obligation and in strict confidence to discuss our legal advice and representation services. Our fees are competitve.

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