Once and for all

A pilot project based in Leicester on service
co-ordination for children with complex needs has proved a great
success. Graham Hopkins reports.

Amisha Patel is just over two years old. She
is in a baby carrier positioned at the feet of her parents Meena
and Mehul, who form part of a seated circle with 11 social and
health care workers.

Rather than be overawed by such a gathering,
the Patels are comfortable, frank and open, and relish the
opportunity to be so. They are attending a care co-ordination
meeting at Leicester General Hospital. Despite the clinical
surroundings all agree that it is a convenient place to meet.

The Patels are willing and satisfied partners
in a pilot project on service co-ordination for children with
complex needs, within three local authorities: Leicester,
Leicestershire, Rutland, and Leicestershire Health Authority.
Anette Beattie was appointed project manager in 1999.

As with most good ideas the thinking behind
the project was simple enough. The project aims to address the fact
that parents might have to work with more than 20 professionals
from different organisations, departments and locations at any one
time. Sometimes work can overlap or be missed. Irritatingly for
parents they can be required to tell their stories several

How much better, then, if all those involved
met with each other and agreed who would do what. And to have a
named person who would co-ordinate the services and be a point of
contact for all involved.

Families with a child under eight with a
significant health condition and in need of more than one
specialist service can take part in the project. Once on board a
service planning meeting is held within six weeks at which point a
service plan is agreed and a co-ordinator appointed.

The co-ordinator – a problem-solving friend
with broad shoulders (with plenty of space to cry on) – undertakes
to contact the family at least once a month.

Refreshingly, parents themselves can become
co-ordinators, increasing their involvement. However, murmured
fears that such appointments would send parents power-crazy
demanding unrealistic levels of service have been silenced by the
dignified reserve and understanding of the parents involved.

Service needs
Amisha Patel needs a variety of services, including
social work, education psychology, speech therapy, neurology,
respite, and dietary and welfare advice. Her father, Mehul, is
delighted to be part of the pilot project: “It’s been great for
us,” he says.

“If we didn’t have these meetings,” adds Jo
Lane, Amisha’s health visitor and co-ordinator, “I know that
everything would depend on me to happen – and calls wouldn’t get
made and so on. But here we can agree who is doing what and get on
and do it. It’s a more pro-active and accountable way of

The Patels are particularly pleased with their
service plan, which they keep in a folder along with all other
relevant histories and information. Each time they receive a visit
or use a service it is recorded on their plan.

As Meena Patel says: “Every month we need to
go to the hospital and we need to go through every single thing
that’s wrong with her. But what we do now is just give the file in!
‘It’s all in there’, we tell them.”

Education psychologist, Davinder Dhesi,
agrees: “From my point of view as a professional who perhaps does
not have ongoing regular contact with the family, I have instant
access to any information on involvement with this family because
they keep a record of it all.

“It’s a very efficient way of sharing
information,” he continues, “making sure also that each one of us
also learns about each others’ roles.”

Social worker Tracy Vickers, agrees: “From a
social work point of view it is much easier working with clients
who are part of this project than with ones who aren’t.”

The project comes to its three-year conclusion
in March. And Amisha and her parents are just three of many people
who will be hoping that the funding can be co-ordinated as well as
the services they receive.

– Care Co-ordination Network UK – to be
launched in April 2002 – is a new organisation funded by the Joseph
Rowntree Foundation. Contact Katy Barton, social policy research
unit, University of York, 01904 433 605 or e-mail: kb17@york.ac.uk or visit: www.york.ac.uk/spru/ccnukv


Scheme: Pilot project on service co-ordination
for children with complex needs.

Location: Leicestershire & Rutland
Healthcare NHS Trust, Leicester.

Staffing: One full-time co-ordinator and a
part-time clerk.

Inspiration: Multi-agency steering group
formed in 1997 to improve co-ordination of services for disabled

Cost: £30,000 over three years, jointly
funded by participating authorities.


For more information call Anette
Beattie on 0116 223 2427. An evaluation of the project by De
Montfort University is available.

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