What is joint working?

"Joint working describes situations where, for the benefit of patients, NHS and industry organisations pool skills, experience and/or resources for the joint development and implementation of patient-centred projects and share a commitment to successful delivery."
Joint Working: A Quick Start Reference Guide for NHS and Pharmaceutical Industry Partners
Joint working often focuses on:
  • Developing innovative solutions that reduce costs for the NHS
  • Improving the quality of patient care and improving patient outcomes.
  • Improving NHS access to the specialist knowledge, skills and research undertaken by the industry. 
At the heart of any joint working project must be benefit for the patient, but in a well-run project there are additionally benefits for the NHS and pharma. It is "right and proper"  that healthcare professionals are able to access the knowledge that the industry has about the medicines they produce and the disease areas they focus on.
David Southern of Pathway Communications says that for pharma, "joint working is about getting the right patient to the right place, where they can receive the right treatment, and importantly - where appropriate - that treatment can be a drug."

How do I get involved in Joint Working?

The ABPI booklet Joint Working – A Quick Start Reference Guide for NHS and Pharmaceutical Industry Partners outlines the process joint working teams should follow when implementing a joint working project. The guide can be downloaded from the ABPI or hard copies can be purchased from the ABPI or the PM Society.

Approach a partner and bring a team together

HCPs and industry should be on the lookout for opportunities to get involved in joint working. "If you have an idea that will benefit both patient and NHS you have the start of a project," says Southern.  Use the Joint Working template to ensure you meet the criteria of a true Joint Working arrangement. "Approach the relevant NHS organisation, and say, ‘we think we can do something good,this is how we think we can help you improve patient care?’". 
"The NHS is very used to producing teams and committees that will come together in a matrix structure to oversee projects. They willusually be called a service development team - including clinicians, management and commissioners, depending on what pathway you’re looking at- and within there you could add a pharmaceutical representative. "

Lay the groundwork

David emphasises that preparation is the key behind a successful Joint Working project. "You’re aiming at things that are laudable, so really focus in on what you’re there to do. It’s all in the homework. Spend more time at the beginning talking to get it right, to make sure that everybody’s in agreement and then move forward. If you don’t get your stakeholders together, don’t get a consensus to move forward, that’s where the pitfalls lie. Then you’re bound to end in disaster."
Ensure project objectives are clear and shared across all the involved parties. A Terms of Reference Document (TOR) outlines the membership of the Joint Project Group and their responsibilities.  A template Terms of Reference document can be downloaded from the DH Toolkit.
A Project Initiation Document (PID) summarises the project details – from scope, objectives and deliverables to the business case, stakeholders and milestones.  Here it is outline how the group will recognise whether objectives have been achieved and whether quality standards have been met.  A PID template can be downloaded from the DH Toolkit 

The ABPI Code of Practice still stands

Pharmaceutical industry activity within a Joint Working project is covered by the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry, and any breaches of the Code by industry representatives should be reported to the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMPCA). 

Where can I find out more?

Examples of Joint Working from pharma 

About David Southern

David SouthernDavid established Pathway Communications in 2008 in response to the rapidly changing healthcare sector. He has worked with both primary and secondary care trusts developing and implementing new clinical services. He has also worked with pharmaceutical companies developing their NHS strategy.
Before setting up Pathway Communications David worked in the Pharmaceutical industry for 15 years, for the last three years as Head of NHS strategy. David has developed industry leading solutions enabling organisations to describe the value they add to the health care sector and thereby add value to patients, the NHS, and suppliers.