Is Social Care being treated as equally as Health?

Health and Social Care. This phrase is often used these days.

As if Social Care were being treated as equally as Health. As if the much talked about integration of the two in England was moving forward in leaps and bounds.

However, it doesn’t feel that way. Well, not to me anyway.

True, £2BN extra was announced for social care in the budget, but other reports suggested half of this would go on meeting pay rise needs. And of course, this is off the back of years of sustained cuts to social services.

Another report discusses the 350,000 staff per year, who are leaving the care home and domiciliary care sectors. Having experienced both of these service sectors during my family’s life with older parents and parents in law, these were challenged sectors before such staffing issues.

The much touted STPs (Sustainability and Transformation Plans – regional health and social care integration plans to modernise and sustain services moving forward) are still grappling with integrating “health” and, with a few notable exceptions such as Manchester and some of the Vanguards and similar (and I am sure there are others), there seems little in the way of “Care”.

Delayed discharges from hospitals remain pretty constant and the issue this creates of patients in beds they don’t need to be in, but nowhere to put them remains firm.

Councils seem to be raising funds from the council tax to link to Social Care as soon as they can – why wouldn’t you?

How can social and health care (interesting when you change it round) integrate the technology to work together better? I have been to lots of Health Conferences and events over the past 12 months – don’t recollect a high if any profile for social care…?…

Can GP’s do virtual rounds in Care Homes? Virtual Wards were a “buzz” a few years ago, can we not get consultants reaching out into people’s homes and doing a virtual ward round, rather than keeping them in the hospital setting?

Electronic records – Health still marches towards increase computerisation, but much of care is still on paper. Social services have systems, but there is little integration with health systems.

And what about the Digital Leaders? Perhaps I don’t read the right magazines or online blogs, but I can see the Digital Health Leaders shaping policy locally and nationally, implementing the same – but I can’t same the same in social care – No, “Rock Star CIOs” or “Chief Social Worker Information Offices” – how can we bring about that change?

Again, in the Digital Space, there are some exemplars. The shared record that has drawn in Councils as well as healthcare organisations (like the Connecting Care programme in Bristol), the MDT teams around the country, where clinicians and social workers work side by side. But how do we take these experiences and industrialise them? That seems to be (one of) the challenge.

Ideal are the sponsors of this series of blogs. Ideals strategic experience in Healthcare is now reaching across the divide, and can be used to bring together health and social care digital strategy, to align them and then, through its network of over 200 associate specialists, including a number in the social services and care space, deliver those integrated approaches.

Ideal can help you with those issues of getting greater integration between health and social care, whether it’s improving discharge processes and reducing delays; using interoperability to connect information together for the benefit of all sectors or reshaping and re-aligning services to cater for both social and health under the same roof.

When we are elderly and/or perhaps losing our memory, how might we wish to be treated by society? Is the current system the one we would want?

Even if we have families and friends around us, they may not be able to be our full-time carers, so we will need professional support, as well as the support of those we love.

In this election campaign, #GE2017 we have heard and we will hear more about funding for the NHS – this party is good, that party is bad, this policy is affordable, this one is not, and so on.

Whatever one’s politics or views on the current NHS – if the NHS is an institution we all wish to save, irrespective of how we might wish to save it – why is social care any different?

If we do save the NHS, but lose social care – we will have won the battle, and lost the war.

Martin Bell

Independent Consultancy in Healthcare, IT and Business

Supporting clients across Health and Social Care including Ideal, the leading Strategic and Implementation IT specialists in the UK.