Developing a shared commitment to health and social care

How are we going to be the change we want to see? Sharon Blackburn from the National Care Forum

How are we going to be the change we want to see? Sharon Blackburn from the National Care Forum

I am convinced that people reading this get up each day because we want to make a difference and improve outcomes for people using services and those working in the system.

Picture: iStock

We are all citizens and we should all be working towards the same outcomes. People who use services want choice, control and to be heard.

They also want services that are personal to them and expect the people who care for them to be trained, competent, skilled, knowledgeable and registered as appropriate.

What is the reality?

A total of 1.47 million people, including more than 40,000 nurses, work in adult social care in England (Skills for Care 2018). Most of this workforce comprises care staff who may be unregistered but are not low skilled or unqualified. They routinely deliver complex care and support in a range of settings.

Care homes with and without nursing offer more places for people to reside than there are beds in the NHS. So this is not a small sector and yet we continue to operate in silos, misunderstanding its role. And there are many news stories about people, including healthcare professionals, describing how they try to navigate a broken system.

Common values

Workforce strategies are not joined up, and we need a collective, national, local and personal commitment to engaging a workforce with the right values, as well as the right skills and competence.

Related: NHS Long Term Plan ‘guarantees’ shifting resources from hospitals to community

The challenges of Brexit are also looming large and add to the disparate nature of our system.

Waiting for others to take responsibility to bring about change has proven ineffective. The long-awaited and overdue green paper on adult social care is yet again delayed, and there have been too many reports but not enough action detailing the current staff shortages. Integration when it happens well is great, but it is not the norm.

The consequences for people using services are all too evident. Staff working in broken systems are doing a superb job in very difficult times.

Asking the right questions

I have been incorporating Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote into a question for a while: how are you going to be the change you want to see?

Are you open to the use of technology as an enabler and not a replacement for care?

How are you using data across boundaries and systems to share information about your workforce to plan services that engage and involve citizens? 

At the heart of it all, relationships need to be cultivated to achieve sustainable change that is effective and can evolve and mature. I believe it will enable greater flexibility.

We cannot always do more but we can do something different, that is co-created and owned to achieve the outcomes to which we all aspire.

Further information

About the author

Sharon Blackburn is a policy and communications director at the National Care Forum


This article is for subscribers only