Thinktank recommends new health care practitioner role

The integration of health and social care roles can be achieved
through the creation of new ‘health care practitioners’ argues a
new report, by the Institute for Public Policy Research,
writes David Craik.

Combining elements of nursing, occupational therapy, social work
and home support the new profession would primarily focus on
providing services for older people who do not need to be in
hospital, according to the report, ‘The Future Health Worker’.

It said health care practitioners would be expected to take a
“comprehensive health and social care history” of each
patient, would “develop/implement care plans; carry out
physical examination/diagnosis and co-ordinate services across
health and social care settings”. New health practitioner
assistants would, as part of their role, “take blood
samples/ECGs and liaise with other agencies to co-ordinate services
like shopping or providing meals”.

Barbara Vaughan, a contributor to the report, said the new
practitioners would be expected to carry out social work activity.
“We would be looking at incorporating long term care packages
helping people sustain independence when their health problems are
settling down.”

The report recommended that the Council for the Regulation of
Healthcare Professionals should be empowered to manage a framework
of regulation that can accommodate these new practitioners.

The integration of health and social care has failed in the past
because of poor co-ordination “particularly in relation to
older people’s services”. Factors include the problems
of “aligning boundaries and budgets for service users”,
and “persistent prejudices and stereotyping about different
professional cultures”.

The report acknowledged that in order for their suggestions to
work major changes in the way the future “health and social
care workforce is trained”, and “disparities in the pay
levels of the health and social care sectors” will have to be

David Behan, president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, said: “The challenge for the future lies in designing
services for people who need support and care. A central issue is
the need to think creatively about the development of a workforce
and new roles which will help us deliver joined-up services.

“However, it is essential that there is a multi-disciplinary
approach which recognises each profession’s contribution to the
provision of care.”

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