Taking up her new post as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in September, Theresa Coffey faced almost immediate backlash in response to one of her very first announcements to the Commons as she laid out plans to reduce GP waiting times for patients.
While the move was welcomed by the public, there were echoes of disappointment from those working across the NHS. Why? For the simple reason that there was no prior consultation with those that her plans will have the greatest impact on, with the Royal College of GPs stating, “we could have informed her of what is really needed to ensure a GP service that meets the needs of patients and is fit for the future.”
Unfortunately, this is an approach we see all too often within health and social care when those in government determine what’s best for staff, patients and service users without proper consultation. Now as Steve Barclay settles into his new role, there’s no doubt that change is afoot in social care and there’s much work to be done. The final recommendations of the Independent Review into children’s social care may have been uncomfortable reading for many, but it’s this level of challenge that’s needed to drive long-term improvement and to meet demand.
In my opinion, to move forward successfully, the Government must work alongside industry leaders to define a national workforce strategy that looks at staff recognition, value and reward; investment in training, qualification and support; career pathways and development; building and enhancing social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workforce; and effective workforce planning across the whole social care workforce.
There’s work to be done to encourage talented individuals into the industry and inspire and incentivise them to become future leaders. Identifying those people who have the potential to succeed is crucial – so they can be supported through their career journey and armed with the skills and mindset required to take the business on to the next chapter.
As a business, we regularly consult with leaders across the Tristone community, so I asked them what they want to see from the new Secretary, and what they feel will make a lasting change in the sector.
Alison Moore, Managing Director of Juventas Services, said: “One thing that would add real value is greater engagement between the Children’s Commissioner and the sector to help shape proposals for the improvement of children’s homes. By seeking the views of those people who are working on the ground, by looking at this from the grass roots up, and gathering factual information, we can create lasting change.”
Daryl Holkham, Director of Operational Corporate Governance at Tristone Healthcare, explained: “To afford positive, meaningful change we need to look at not only what can be improved, but also what works and importantly, how, and why it works. Improvement is driven by shared learning, shared commitments, and effective joined-up working. Things will go wrong from time to time, but the emphasis must be upon solutions and not limited to blame.”
At the time of writing, the Government has already announced plans to scrap the Health and Social Care Levy from November, which was expected to raise £13bn a year to help fund NHS backlogs and invest in improvements to social care, though the new Chancellor has said that funding would be maintained at the same level as if the levy were in place. This was followed by a £500 million announcement, as part of ‘Plans for Patients’. However, while we await further announcements on the Government’s plans, it’s my hope that Ministers will recognise the key to solving some of the systemic issues affecting children’s social care will come from two-way communication with those on the frontline to deliver change where it’s needed most.