Mind the Care Gap: Changing the debate and building momentum towards a new vision for future health and care

29th January 2018

Curtis-James Marshall MCIPR, Senior Public Affairs and Media Officer, Future Care Capital

This week marks the end of our Mind the Care Gap Campaign, but not the end of the conversation. As we continue to nurture the debate across the health and care sectors, the campaign has discussed a wide range of issues experienced by service-users and professionals, to which the response has been positive. The mission now is to look at what we can do to deliver better outcomes for those in receipt of care, and tackle growing demand.

Our campaign has gone some way towards highlighting what is needed but not always heard. The people we’ve spoken to have shared many things, but a number of themes have emerged:

  • The growth in older people developing long-term physical and mental health conditions in later life is placing unprecedented demand on existing resources.
  • Health and care professionals are increasingly over-stretched and this has implications for the quality and standard of care they can reasonably be expected to give.
  • Unpaid carers are finding it difficult to achieve some kind of ‘work-life-care balance’.
  • Service users want to build a rapport with the professionals that support them, so that they have a familiar face to talk to about their care needs.

Unmet needs – what we have termed the ‘care deficit’ – are growing at an alarming rate. We must all act to address it and ensure care provision is responsive to peoples’ individual needs.

To help encourage the development of practical recommendations, we have set out three key milestones for the Government to consider as it responds to the care gap.

In the short term: we want the Government to put a comprehensive skills framework in place to improve retention, recruitment and standards for the country’s ‘careforce’. 

In the medium term: we want the Government to invest in technology and home adaptations to respond to growing care needs and better facilitate independent living.

In the long term: we want the Government to agree to the unification of our health and care services, underpinned by a new Care Covenant.

On the frontline, we have seen that health and care systems can work better if there is integration. An effective way of doing this is through using data in a smarter way across the NHS and local government. The use of technology and digital tools in health and care settings offers great potential to help deliver better future provision, and as part of our campaign, we spoke to health and care professionals about its usage. They told us that we need to make greater use of data in the years to come. At a GP practice in Leicester, both health and adult social care professionals use the same computer system to manage and update patient records. This allows fast and accurate information flows between both sets of staff working with those in their community.

Our campaign has also identified examples of where we can improve provision and to some extent reduce upheaval to patients and practitioners. It must now be a priority to figure out how we can take these examples of best practice in small pockets across the country and scale them up – this would be a positive step forward to ending the postcode lottery that many aspects of health and care are currently subjected to.

We welcomed the announcement that the newly titled Department of Health and Social Care will strive in:

“…leading the nation’s health and care to help people live healthier lives for longer…ensuring that the health and care system puts patient safety and quality at the heart of everything it does…”[1]

There are some positive indications that Whitehall is recognising it must shift emphasis and focus on a long-term settlement, but this step-change must be complemented by change at the local level as well.

To build on the Campaign and continue to raise awareness, we are hosting a Mind the Care Gap Summit this Spring – bringing stakeholders together to discuss what a Care Covenant should include before the government consultation is published in the Summer.

Mind the Care Gap has ended for now, but the mission to deliver care to some of the most vulnerable people in our society will continue until a new and sustainable settlement is finally agreed.

 

[1] Department of Health and Social Care, Department of Health and Social Care single departmental plan, accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/department-of-health-single-departmental-plan/department-of-health-single-departmental-plan