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News / July 10, 2008

Communication key to improving patient care in Northern Ireland

by Guy Hiscott

Dr Melissa McCullough, a lecturer in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen’s University Belfast, is behind the new MSc in Interprofessional Health and Social Studies, which will bring together a range of health and social care professionals who can learn from and about each other to improve the communication and quality of care they provide.

Through collaboration with the Beeches Management Centre, Queen’s hopes to recruit a range of practising health and social care professionals including dentists, doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and managers. It will focus on personal and interpersonal effectiveness, interprofessional theory and practice, managing service delivery, leadership, and ethics and law in health and social care practice.

Dr McCullough said: ‘While health and social professionals are on the whole good and caring people, trying to do the best they can, they face challenges of lack of resources and time.

‘The McElhill report highlighted deficiencies in leadership, team-working, communication and management support, which need to be tackled across health trusts at a training level to provide better standards of care.

‘Interprofessional education allows the development of a collaborative culture which enhances heath and social care services. It also enhances the working environment for health and social care professionals.

‘Key drivers in establishing the course have been the tragedies and subsequent lessons learned from cases such as the Victoria Climbie Inquiry and the Kennedy Report of the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

‘Recommendations from local inquiries including the O’Neill report, the McCartan review and the investigation into Janine Murtagh’s death have also been a key factor in establishing the need for the course and interprofessional education initiatives within Northern Ireland.’

The qualification also takes into account many of the steps identified in the 2007 report from the Department of Health entitled Creating an Interprofessional Workforce: An Education and Training framework for Health and Social Care.

Course details can be found on the Queen’s University Belfast, School of Medicine and Dentistry website. The course begins in September and can be completed part-time over two or three years, attending two half-days per month.

Applicants should normally have at least three years’ working within their profession and will need approval from their employing organisation as a large proportion of assessment is project based within the workplace.

For more information on the course go to or applications can be made online at