Current healthcare policy emphasises the need for more collaborative, team-based approaches to providing care, and for a greater voice for service users in the management and delivery of care. Increasingly, policy encourages 'partnerships' between users and professionals so that users, too, effectively become team members. In examining this phenomenon, this paper draws on insights from the organisational-sociological literature on team work, which highlights the challenges of bringing together diverse professional groups, but which has not, to date, been applied in contexts where users, too, are included in teams. Using data from a qualitative study of five pilot cancer-genetics projects, in which service users were included in teams responsible for managing and developing new services, it highlights the difficulties involved in making teams of such heterogeneous members-and the paradoxes that arise when this task is achieved. It reveals how the tension between integration and specialisation of team members, highlighted in the literature on teams in general, is especially acute for service users, the distinctiveness of whose contribution is more fragile, and open to blurring.
© 2011 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness © 2011 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.