Staff shortage hits joint working plans, nurses warn

The single shared assessment process (SAP) for older people is
being undermined by the shortage of social workers, new research
suggests, writes Amy Taylor.

A Royal College of Nursing report found that joint working
arrangements on the SAP in Scotland under the ‘Joint Futures’
agenda were not working effectively. It said community nurses feel
the process is being “manipulated by management” in
order to redirect their work towards social care responsibilities
to bridge recruitment problems in the sector.

The protected caseloads of social workers, poor support to
frontline staff and an increase in bureaucracy are all problems,
the research said. Such issues are UK-wide and could also cause
problems in parts of England, where the recruitment crisis is most

The report, ‘Voices from the Frontline’, said that community
nurses working in joint health and social care teams were
particularly uncomfortable with carrying out the financial aspect
of the assessments feeling that this is not their role, and put a
“different slant” on the nurse/patient relationship.

They went on to raise further concerns about having to take on a
‘care manager’ role, applying means-tested restrictions to
services, a duty they argue is associated with “bureaucratic
social work procedures” and is “a bridge too far”
for many.

James Kennedy, RCN Scotland Secretary, said the report is a
criticism of management and politicians rather than those at ground
level. He called for increased investment in individual and team
development, a review of the assessment tools used on the teams and
the establishment of a Scottish Staff Forum to provide advice and
support to frontline staff.

Ruth Stark, professional officer for BASW Scotland, said the
report failed to adequately look at how problems within nursing,
such as recruitment, contributed to the situation. Too much
bureaucracy is a problem for “both professions not just one”, she

Dwayne Johnson, spokesperson on the SAP for the Association of
Directors of Social Services, said that in England many councils
appoint welfare rights officers to conduct means-tested elements of
assessments to free up other professionals’ time.

The report documents the experiences of 12 community nurses
practising in recently formed inter-professional health and social
care teams, and the views of 16 RCN activists on partnership

Voices From the Frontline

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