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Getting the Sergeants on your Side: The importance of interpersonal relationships and cultural interoperability for generating interagency collaboration between nurses and the police in custody suites

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gethin Rees



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


In this article, I contribute to the literature around interagency collaboration, especially between law enforcement and healthcare, by reconciling the previous work of Sarah Charman (2014) with the interprofessional teamwork literature. Drawing upon a semi-structured interview-based study with 20 custody nurses working in English police custody suites (analysed using Framework Analysis), I explore the ways they are able to achieve interagency collaboration with a particular police officer, the Desk Sergeant. I argue that nurses accomplish interagency interoperability by interacting regularly with the Desk Sergeant, anticipating their needs and limiting their own goals to those that are commensurate with the Desk Sergeant’s, notably providing information and avoiding deaths in custody. Such practices are similar to the strategies of “Cultural Interoperability” noted by Charman (2014); however, this study also identifies that such strategies are only available once a successful working relationship has formed between Desk Sergeant and nurse, and as a result, similarly to the findings of interprofessional teamwork studies, the success or failure of attempts to collaborate across agencies is underpinned by interpersonal relations. The paper concludes by commenting on the importance of analysing both the interpersonal and organisation levels when studying collaboration.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rees G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociology of Health and Illness : a journal of medical sociology

Year: 2020

Volume: 42

Issue: 1

Pages: 111-125

Print publication date: 01/01/2020

Online publication date: 12/09/2019

Acceptance date: 25/07/2019

Date deposited: 01/09/2019

ISSN (print): 0141-9889

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9566

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.12989


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Funder referenceFunder name
supported by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award [Grant Reference Number: 205561/Z/16/Z]