A watchdog has found that many community health partnerships in Scotland are poorly managed and have failed to deliver improvements, despite spending £3bn a year.
Audit Scotland’s review of Scotland’s 36 community health partnerships (CHPs) found a lack of clear action planning and performance management. Among their number are the community health and social care partnerships set up in 2004 to bridge the two sectors.
The partnerships employ 29,000 NHS staff and 5,000 social care staff, but many were unable to provide detailed financial information or data on staff turnover and absence rates.
Although the report’s authors acknowledged that partnership working was challenging, especially in the current financial climate, they found CHPs could make better use of resources with better information-sharing and less duplication.
“CHPs were set up in addition to existing health and social care partnership arrangements in many areas,” the report stated.
“This has contributed to duplication and a lack of clarity of the role of the CHP and other partnerships in place at a local level.”
Audit Scotland also found that some services were introduced without piloting them, joint roles could be ill-defined and management arrangements for joint teams insufficiently robust.
Responding to the report, Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said CHPs “have to change”.
She said: “Planning care for increasing numbers of older people is one of our biggest national challenges and health boards and councils need to work together far more closely.
“We want to see health and social care for adults delivered in an integrated way by NHS and council social work staff and community health partnerships will have to change to adapt to this.”
Nick Johnson, chief executive of the Social Care Association, said he was disappointed that the report focused almost entirely on process and hardly mentioned service users.
He said health and social services were bound to face difficulties when working together because they are run differently. But he added: “After seven years, there should be visible benefits to people receiving services from health or social care that can be highlighted as evidence of success.”
Johnson argued that local authorities should be placed at the head of CHPs because they have a better record of financial management and in meeting expectations.
“Whatever the next step, a statement of tangible outcomes for people using services should be on the first page for all to see and to which project managers can be held to account,” he said.
The Scottish government has been asked to respond.
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