The new health and social care secretary has vowed to create “less of a division” between community health services and social care, insisting “we are one team”.
In his first major speech since replacing Jeremy Hunt earlier this month, Matt Hancock said he wanted to create “a culture of mutual respect” where “everyone is valued for what they contribute” as he revealed plans for a consultation exercise on workforce issues.
Hancock also announced a £487 million funding package to transform technology systems within health and social care.
First hand experience
Reflecting on a recent visit to a social care home where he saw the benefits of an electric care planning system, Hancock said change was needed to allow technology to help the sector and its workforce.
“For too long, decisions on health and care have seemed to involve a trade-off – improving patient outcomes at the expense of placing ever more pressure on staff, while reducing the demands on staff has been seen to have an impact on patient care,” he said.
“Technology and data innovation offers an opportunity to move past this binary approach.”
However, more than £400 million of the cash package money would go to NHS hospitals.
Access to senior roles
Speaking from West Suffolk Hospital, Hancock said helping the social care workforce to develop their own careers would be one of his key priorities for the future. He said more training and support would be offered to the sector.
“I want more people working in social care to feel able and supported to grow and develop their careers and step up into those senior roles that are crucial to providing leadership and determining the quality of care received by our loved ones,” he said.
Hancock stressed the importance of the role of prevention in making the health and social care system sustainable.
Keeping people healthy and delivering care in the right place were two key points identified by the secretary of state, who repeated his predecessor’s target of creating a better integrated health and social care service.
“With an ageing society and 10 million more people projected to be living with a long-term condition by 2030, it is more imperative than ever that we look to make a radical shift in our approach – focusing on preventative, joined up care that’s centred around individuals,” he said.
Council services overlooked
Responding to the speech, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board councillor Izzi Seccombe highlighted the government’s unwillingness to secure extra funding for social care services.
“While significant new money has been announced for the NHS, no new money has been pledged for councils’ public health teams or adult social care which remains in desperate need of a long-term funding settlement.”
“It’s good to see the secretary of state’s focus on prevention which is the surest way to reduce hospital admissions and reduce pressures on the NHS and adult social care, which needs to be put on an equal footing with the health service.”
She added that reductions to public health budgets needed to be reversed to enable councils to continue to help people to live independently and well which, in turn, would help ease demands on the NHS and social care.
Meanwhile, director of policy for Campaigns and Partnerships at Alzheimer’s Society, Sally Copley, said:
“While it is heartening to see the new secretary of state’s focus on championing health and care staff, the upcoming green paper and social care reform is mentioned as a mere aside. This priority is a deep concern.”
“The social care system is on its knees and people with dementia are the principal victims – hundreds of thousands of them rely on social care every day.”
“Investing in the NHS while ignoring social care is akin to pouring water into a leaky bucket,” she added.
The director also pointed out it had been over a year since the government said it would urgently address the failing social care system after public outcry over a proposed dementia tax.