Study urges creation of local information centres

Information on health and social care services is plentiful but accessing it requires “time, effort and ingenuity”, leaving vulnerable service users bereft, a government-commissioned report out yesterday (Wednesday) claimed.

The study from research body the Picker Institute called for each local area to have a central information centre for health and social care, staffed by people skilled in understanding users’ needs.

It also said a new role of “information broker” should be created to provide leadership on information access across sectoral and organisational boundaries.

In last year’s health and social care white paper, Our Health, Our Care, Our Say, the Department of Health, which commissioned the study, promised to review the provision of health and social care information, after a consultation found it was a key public concern.

The institute sent a number of “mystery shoppers”, including parents of autistic children and ethnic minority older people, to test information provision. They left phone messages that were unanswered, were passed from organisation to organisation, and were rarely signposted to particular individuals within agencies.

It added that the shoppers were assertive and experienced in information searching, adding: “First-time searchers and disadvantaged groups are likely to struggle even more, and may be deterred altogether before locating the support they need.”

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 Simeon Brody

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