Editorial Comment: Let’s get personal

It’s not the prettiest word in social care’s jargon guidebook, but “personalisation” is the one that is grabbing the attention. Defining it is the easy part – “self-directed support which gives service users choice and control in satisfying their needs and aspirations” would do in a pocket dictionary. The hard part, as the record-breaking attendance at our recent personalisation conference shows, will be putting into practice one speaker said was the most profound change in social care in 60 years.

By early 2011, the government expects “significant moves towards system-wide change”, a policy that won’t alter much if the Conservatives win the next general election. Some councils have been eager to take up the challenge of personalisation, but others are being left behind. For example Oldham has forged ahead with self-directed care, while a few miles away Rochdale is struggling with a leadership crisis and a mass exodus of staff.

Fortunately, the 13 individual budget pilot projects and the appointment of a national director to propel personalisation should help, although the individual budget evaluation, now expected in the summer, is likely to identify difficulties engaging older people and diverting multiple funding streams into personal pots of money.

But consolation may be at hand. If Lord Darzi’s forthcoming review delivers, councils will find the NHS climbing the same mountain.

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Mark Ivory

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