By Debbie le Quesne

‘Zombie’ comment on care plans reveal true divide

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Care minister Norman Lamb is not happy. Indeed he appears to be furious after his £5bn plan to join up social care and NHS funding was likened by a doctor to “zombie” that needed putting out of its misery.

The care and support chief was speaking at the School for Social Care Research conference and had told delegates that “great chunks” of NHS cash was going over to personal health budgets for people living with long-term conditions.

A question from the floor reminded him that at another event a show of hands revealed that overwhelmingly most health professionals were against the idea, with one medic likening the plan to an “intellectual zombie”, an “ideologically-driven dead idea still moving” that needed putting out of its misery.

Lamb’s response was brisk: “It demonstrates the cultural change that’s needed,” he snapped. “The idea that the clinician knows best has to be stopped.”

It’s a brave stance by anyone’s reckoning and though I welcome the promise of more funds, we must find a common ground with the NHS and be able to work together.

And may I add that all NHS staff are not the same. With West Midlands Care Association I have fostered some great working relationships with NHS-led care colleagues.

Lamb’s angry retort reveals the real tension over his plans, something I have mentioned many times in my blogs. If I’m honest, I can really see any movement to scrap the plan.

The coalition’s Better Care Fund (BCF) will mark a significant step forward.

According to the national media: “Lamb has confirmed that the fund, set up with a pooled £3.8bn of existing funding, mostly from the NHS, will in fact kick off next year with at least £5bn available to develop integrated care services, thanks to more than 50 local areas electing to chip in extra to that required.”

Sadly, there has always been a chasm between health and social care and the enthusiasm to join the two together I fear is only skin deep.

I quote yesterday’s Guardian: “A few months ago, when there were fears of a winter crisis in the NHS, Care England, representing private care providers, approached Downing Street to offer help. Encouraged by officials, it emailed health trusts and CCGs, among others, to make beds available in care homes for less acutely ill patients so that pressure on hospital wards might be eased.

“According to Care England, barely 10 per cent of its emails were even opened. Still fewer prompted any response. As long as such narrow thinking persists, the health and care system is doomed to remain disunited – and to fail.”

I’m afraid Mr Lamb will need more than a sticking plaster approach to fix this problem.

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