Nine hundred adult social care staff, including social workers, will be transferred to the NHS to create the biggest integrated health and social care provider in the UK, it was confirmed today.
In the wake of two major reports for the DH that pressed the case for greater integration in order to improve care and cut costs, ministers have signed off on plans to integrate adult social care and community health services in Staffordshire. It could save at least £30m a year across the county’s care economy.
From April, 907 Staffordshire Council adult social care staff, including care managers, will transfer to community health provider Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust, along with a budget of £153m this year. The partnership trust is already one of the biggest healthcare providers in England.
The move is designed to cut out duplication and improve the co-ordination of care for service users, particularly those with long-term conditions, who will receive a single assessment and have all their health and social care care co-ordinated by a single individual.
Other objectives include improving the capacity of community services in order to prevent hospital admissions and reduce delayed discharges, releasing significant savings.
Staff transferring are due to have the option of remaining within the local government pension scheme or transferring to the NHS scheme, and will otherwise retain existing terms and conditions.
Social care staff were keen on the change as they felt it would give them parity of esteem with health colleagues, said Matthew Ellis, cabinet member for wellbeing at the council.
“They have for a long time seen the advantages of being part of one team [with health colleagues],” he said. “I think the work of social workers is not put on the same plane as the work of health professionals and there’s every reason that it should be.”
He said that senior managers from adult social care were moving across to take up management positions at the trust in the deal, which has been two years in the making.
Services transferring include assessment and care management, reablement teams and a care home, though learning disability, mental health and equipment services will not be affected.
Ellis pointed to the timing of the announcement in the wake of two reports, from think-tanks King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust and government advisers the NHS Future Forum, calling on ministers to redouble efforts to integrate care around the needs of service users.
“We are two years ahead of most of the rest of the country,” he added. “This is the biggest, widest and deepest integration in the country but the care that has gone into this has made sure that we have absolutely done it right.”
He said various safeguards were built into the agreement – under section 75 of the NHS Act 2006 – including the need for council agreement to be sought on significant changes to services by the trust and the establishment of a unit within the council to monitor the agreement.