Headlines: June 22nd, 1998

Government ministers have been criticised of failing to demonstrate strong leadership in encouraging partnership working across traditional public sector boundaries.

Although much Government thinking is aimed at bridging the cultural divide between the health service and central and local government, ministers themselves have been accused of neglecting to carry this forward through their own actions.

Speakers and delegates at the inaugural conference of the Public Management and Policy Association in Brighton said that there were many examples of collaboration at
ground level, ministers appeared still to be thinking and working within departmental confines.

A highlighted example of this was with Best Value, the major initiative for improvement of local authority services, steered by the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions. Although it clearly has a wider application there have been no pronouncements about how it applied to education or health.

Another practical example of the remaining differences between sectors was illustrated by the different definitions of ‘urgent visit’. The health service response is measured in hours, but in social services it is measured in days. There was a call for joint training to precede joint working to foster greater understanding of wider professional disciplines.

The PMPA was set up to bring together managers and policy-makers from across public services.