In responding to the pandemic, success should be defined by the people who access services, just as much as the sectors that provide them.
In August, the Scottish Government published, Re-mobilise, Recover, Re-design (this link will take you away from our website), a report examining the initial response of the health and social care sectors to the pandemic. The scale of work, innovation, and adaptation achieved by those working in health care is celebrated, from the launch of remote GP consultations using the Near Me digital platform, to the development of a new urgent care pathway. Opportunities for service redesign are also highlighted throughout the report, particularly showing the importance of adopting a ‘whole systems’ approach in the design and delivery of all health and social care services.
The ALLIANCE supports this vision of a whole systems approach to the pandemic recovery plan – however, what does this mean in practice for the health and social care integration landscape? A recent report by the ALLIANCE detailing people’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic emphasised that response and recovery plans should aim to support people ‘beyond survival’ in order to help them thrive during and after the ongoing crisis. To do this, a recognition that people’s wellbeing is not just upheld by the health care sector, but importantly also by the work of the social care and third sectors, needs to be at the centre of recovery plans. In talking about a whole systems approach, the Scottish Government’s report importantly highlights, for example, the success of the coordinated approach that leaders in the health and social care sectors adopted to rapidly respond to the needs of people in care homes. And whilst strong leadership has also been identified as a key enabler of health and social care integration by ALLIANCE members, the voices of people – both those who access services and those who provide them – need to be equally recognised. Indeed, as well as offering opportunities to those living with long term conditions to voice what success looks like in the health and social care sector, the ALLIANCE welcomes the Scottish Government’s plans to capture the lived experiences of the workforce, to inform how the NHS Recovery Plan will support staff recovery and wellbeing.
It is also particularly important to think about placing people’s voices at the centre of recovery while the consultation on the National Care Service is currently taking place. Doing so can ensure that the key role of the social care and third sectors, as well as community care, is recognised for the ongoing support they provide to those living with long term conditions, together with the acute response from health care that has helped people survive the last 18 months. The risks of not doing so are already clear and well documented, as highlighted by the People at the Centre work carried out by the ALLIANCE.
Systems are not defined just by the relationships between institutions, but also by the relationships people form and uphold beyond the health care landscape and within communities; the flexibility and adaptation that has been achieved outside of those boundaries should also be celebrated and learnt from.