Partnership working in palliative care is being increasingly promoted as the solution to poorly coordinated health and social care services. A key example is the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance on supportive and palliative care. However, partnerships have costs in negotiating, developing and maintaining working relationships and translating these into successful outcomes, so may not always be the best or most effective method of service improvement. This article explores structural, procedural, financial, professional and legitimacy barriers to partnership working. We conclude that these five barriers could be sufficient to destroy emerging partnerships. Nowhere in the NICE guidance on supportive and palliative care are such barriers acknowledged. We suggest that current and projected palliative care partnerships should be critically evaluated against both process and outcome success criteria. Such evaluations must be integral to partnerships, to learn about what makes an effective palliative care partnership, and what affects partnerships have on patient care and outcomes. Partnerships may not be the panacea for issues of fragmentation, and should not be the only solution considered. Lessons should be learnt from the UK's promulgation of partnerships to ensure that these are used appropriately and only where patient benefit can be anticipated. © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
- Palliative care