The Simon Heng column: A service user’s view of social care

The Healthcare Commission, England’s health watchdog, conducts an annual staff survey the results of the 2006 consultation were published last week. Among questions about levels of stress experienced, satisfaction with levels of hygiene, and violence at work, 128,000 members of staff were asked if they would be happy with the standards of care if they were patients in their own hospitals.

Overall, 39 per cent agreed that they would be happy with the standard of care provided in their trust if they were a patient, but 27 per cent disagreed. Curiously, 34 per cent of staff interviewed said that they did not have a view. Just under half the people interviewed said care of patients was their trust’s top priority, but 25 per cent said it was not. Staff were not asked what other priorities could be regarded as more important than the patients the NHS was meant to serve.

These figures raise serious doubts about the effectiveness of the government’s drive to create a patient-centred NHS.

As an unwilling, but regular customer of the NHS, I am happy to say that community-based services have kept me as healthy as I could be. I am always meaningfully involved in decisions about my healthcare. My experience of care in hospitals, on the other hand let’s just say that you need to be assertive, and in good physical condition to survive hospital treatment.

Social care claims that it strives to be person-centred. I wonder what the results would be if social workers were asked if they would be happy with the standards of care their services provided, if they needed to use them?

People who aren’t in the caring professions have high expectations. A King’s Fund-sponsored survey in 2005 (Looking Forward to Care in Old Age – Expectations of the Next Generation) asked 50-year-olds in London about their expectations of the kind of help they would get in old age. Almost all of them thought that they would be entitled to a greater degree of support to remain independent than is actually provided to our current generation of older people.

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