The practice of teamwork in health industry call centres

Raffaella Valsecchi, Sarah Wise, Frank Mueller, Chris Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – This paper aims to explore the introduction of teamwork in two health call centres, NHS
Direct and NHS24, and intervenes in the emergent debate over teamwork in call centres. Although
within the call centre work environment there is no obvious functional rationale for teamwork, teams
can be “accounted for” with reference to other purposes, including performance management,
normative control, governmentality and institutional isomorphism/management fads. This research
provides additional explanations for the use of teamwork in such an adverse work environment.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on qualitative data (interviews and
non-participant observations) from NHS Direct and NHS24, the English and Scottish tele-nursing
organisations in the UK.
Findings – In the two tele-nursing case studies analysed, teamwork was introduced as an expression
of managers’ aspirations to emulate private sector practices and to reinforce new public management
ideals. However, informal teamwork, which cut across organisationally prescribed forms, provided
both emotional support and spontaneous knowledge sharing among nurses.
Originality/value – This is an innovative study because teamwork has not been thoroughly
explored in a health call centre environment.
Keywords Teamwork, Call centres, Tele-nursing, Healthcare organisation, Team working, Nursing,
Health care
Paper type Research paper
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)288 - 305
Number of pages18
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this