Imagine a world in which the vision for social care was to give ownership and control of care provision to social workers.
Let’s say they were to be gathered together into consortia that would be given control of budgets previously held by councils. These consortia would be free to purchase care as they saw fit (including from themselves) but, should the quality of provision slip, they would be answerable to a committee representing service users.
That sounds like the kind of vision the social care sector might have come up with in a radical moment about 30 years ago. But this is today’s vision for the NHS and quite different from social care’s aim to enable disabled and older people to wield real commissioning power.
The government envisages that health and social care will be increasingly integrated. GP commissioning consortia will, it is hoped, think holistically and buy preventive and community-based services. Personal health budgets are being piloted. But, with our NHS colleagues coping with huge cuts while also trying to manage a vast transfer of ownership to GPs, will the radicalism of personalisation spread to the NHS, or will healthcare narrow its focus on to short-term clinical priorities?
Now, more than ever, we need to educate our NHS colleagues, in particular GPs, about the better outcomes personalised, flexible support can provide, particularly in areas where health and social care overlap, such as public health and hospital discharge. But how nimble will social care providers be, with NHS upheaval on one side and council budgets in freefall on the other?
In the newly “liberated” health market, if we don’t make a strong case for the values of social care, players who are better marketed and more NHS-savvy, rather than necessarily the most personalised, will be the ones who prosper.
Alex Fox is chief executive of NAAPS, the UK network for Shared Lives, Homeshare and micro-enterprises
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