The theme of this collection of essays is partnerships between health and local government. Such partnerships are not new. Nor is discussion of the merits (or otherwise) of collaboration between the two sectors. And the history of collaboration between these two sectors of the public services has been checkered to say the least; indeed, the boundary between health and social care has been described as a 'Berlin Wall'. However, New Labour's ascension to power in 1997 has re-kindled an avid interest in this issue. The Government's emphasis on partnerships and collaboration has been projected as a key element of their 'Third Way' philosophy. Partnership working in particular has been viewed as the most appropriate means of addressing endemic, obdurate social ills, such as social exclusion, poor health, poverty, low educational standards and so on. No one agency can tackle these 'wicked issues' which require collaborative action. New Labour's enthusiasm for partnership approaches produced many new iniatives, legislation and guidance, powers and duties, incentives and rhetoric. And the Government's exhortation to collaborate has been particularly intense in the area of joint working between health and local government.
This collection of essays explores this important theme in New Labour's 'modernisation' programme for the public services. Focusing on the relationships between health and local government, it provides an historical overview of joint working, explores the key theoretical and conceptual issues, analyses the policy context from a health and local government perspective and, importantly, draws in 'non-traditonal' approaches to analysing joint working - approaches based on understanding the emotional and psychological aspects of collaboration (and conflict).