Social workers will have a positive impact on the NHS through plans to involve them in health commissioning under the government’s revamped NHS reforms, the College of Social Work has said.
Under the revised plans, social care professionals would advise clinical commissioning groups, headed by GPs, through multi-professional “senates”.
The College of Social Work said that practitioners’ involvement in multi-disciplinary approaches and joint commissioning and joint assessments would prove valuable.
The change was recommended by the NHS Future Forum, a group of experts set up to revise the Health and Social Care Bill, and accepted by government.
The revised bill will also include a new duty for clinical commissioning groups to promote integrated services for patients, both within the NHS and between health, social care and other local services.
“We are getting acknowledgement of the benefit of our positive role,” said Trudy Burns, a social worker with adults in East Sussex and a spokesperson for the College of Social Work.
“Our role is already a multi-professional approach with joint assessments and some joint commissioning. The emphasis on integration and the social worker and social care professional being integrated is a good thing and it will be interesting to see where that will lead.”
The government has also committed to “make it a priority to extend personal health budgets, including integrated budgets across health and social care”.
Burns stressed the experience of social workers in delivering on personal budgets and saw situations where practitioners could help inform their health colleagues.
“We’ve come up against a lot of the problems and a lot of issues for individuals and for teams; issues around brokers becoming important, with helping to plan and support and health hasn’t got that experience. We could bring our experience over. It’s giving us an opportunity.”
Her views were echoed by David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s community well-being board, who said: “Social workers are used to working with and giving advice to service users and supporting them in meeting their needs. I think those principles will be applied more widely across the system and [social workers] have a great deal to teach their NHS colleagues in that regard.”
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