Aim. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the construction and development of professional health work as it has occurred over the past 15 years in the UK and present an informed, speculative analysis of present and future health care work.
Background. Since the early 1990s, there has been a strong political imperative in the United Kingdom (UK) to develop existing roles in nursing and the allied health professions, blurring professional boundaries and emphasizing patient/client-centred care delivery. This has already led to major changes in professional work patterns and the privileging of interprofessional work. Many of these changes have been shaped and determined by cultural and economic considerations.
Discussion. The socio-political context for the major changes in the roles of non-medical professionals in the UK is explored to demonstrate both consistency and contradictions with postmodern, consumerist values. The theoretical concepts that underpin professional formation and enable professionalization are examined in relation to present health service drivers for interprofessional work and the development of advanced practice roles, noting similarities and differences in aspirations.
Conclusion. While professionalization and role development appear to have benefited both professions and service users in the short-term, their adoption and institutionalization by policymakers are influencing its direction in ways which both may ultimately find troublesome.