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Are adult services moving closer to health? Certainly they are in terms of how adult health and social care services are increasingly developed around the person rather than the service provider. This means that the much-heralded single assessment process (SAP) will identify all the needs of an individual, allowing adult care providers to work with their colleagues in health to create a tailor-made care package.

For those unfamiliar with the term, SAP refers to a principle of working service provision around the individual. All personal information is gathered and shared (with the individual’s consent) with other professionals to minimise duplication and stress on the individual. There do remain teething problems with the IT solutions which enable the gathering of shared data. But we are beginning to see models of care based on the needs of individuals as they live in the community, balancing social care with the more prescriptive care delivered by the health sector.

The Independence, Well-being and Choice green paper suggests that the new role of social workers will be to “broker” care for people in interventions that are increasingly supportive and therapeutic for the user. Instead of sourcing and managing the care package, adult services providers will help an individual to assess their own care needs and then find the services needed to live a lifestyle of that individual’s own choosing.

More shared posts in adult and health services are emerging at director and middle management level. Too often, however, they are purely cosmetic and are of limited value when organisations are facing significant financial deficits. They will be helpful only if truly supported by the business plans and political drivers of the respective health and social care organisations involved, so that they may help in raising awareness of each organisation’s distinct culture and value base.

Some councils are working with health colleagues to develop the role of a specialist worker for older people. This builds on the role of the health visitor for older people by giving workers basic training in care management and an understanding of the principles in the government guidance, Fair Access to Care. The post holders will work with older people to meet their individual care needs from statutory and voluntary providers. Meanwhile, district nurses are starting to use the principles of care management to design care for people with long-term conditions.

When new roles are developed, time must be taken to explore the different cultural value bases of each organisation, as this will be fundamental to the successful planning of person-centred services. Use of language is an important consideration as it reflects organisational value base: a term such as “bed blockers” would never be used in a social model of care delivery, but is often heard in health circles. Furthermore, social care professionals need to be careful that they do not deliver care which is outside their legal responsibility.

Amid this changing environment, we, as adult services professionals, must adapt to our surroundings by improving our knowledge of the health care sector. This will allow us to ensure that care is developed around the person and not the organisation and learn flexibility to develop a career spanning the two disciplines.

Christina Sell is national adviser for adult social care at the Improvement and Development Agency

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