DH official: Preventive shift for adults hampered by lack of indicator

The government’s aim to shift health and adult social care provision towards prevention could be hampered by the absence of an effective performance indicator to measure success.

That was the message from the Department of Health’s lead on prevention and early intervention, Guy Robertson, at a conference on the issue this week organised by Community Care, the DH and the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

Robertson said there were a number of indicators that measured outcomes for older people but there was no effective target to measure prevention, within the national indicator set for local government.

Prevention key to Putting People First

He also stressed shifting resources into prevention from more acute provision was a key part of the government’s Putting People First agenda to transform adult social care from 2008-11.

However, despite this, Robertson said some councils tended to see the transformation agenda as being about individual budgets, “and that’s it”.

Robertson added: “Prevention isn’t a little add-on, it’s fundamentally part of the mainstream of policy direction. Individual budgets and personalisation are an important part of social care transformation, but they are just a part.”

Evidence of success from Popps

His comments follow the latest evaluation of the DH’s Partnership for Older People Projects (Popps), which found that investment in preventive services reaped dividends in reduced emergency hospital bed use and improved quality of life for older people.

Echoing the findings of the evaluation, Robertson urged councils to “invest rather than spend”, by examining what “returns” they could achieve through different types of service.

He added: “For example, rapid response will produce quite big savings on hospital bed use; investment in case co-ordination or befriending services will have some of that, but will be more about improving people’s quality of life.”

Four keys to success

Robertson said four elements were necessary in shifting resources into prevention: a clear vision, the involvement of older people, effective leadership throughout organisations and a “whole systems” approach extending beyond health and social care to community-based services.

He added: “Many of the key elements are not that costly in themselves and don’t necessarily all involve social care resources, for example involving older people.”

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