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By Debbie le Quesne

How commissioners can play their part in social care

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In its June bulletin The Social Care Institute for Excellence offers a wealth of care information, comprehensively covering everything from commissioning of home care to whistleblowing.

At the risk of an information overload, the document is well worth a scan. With a growing number of people over 65 in the population, the new SCIE guide suggests what commissioners can do to improve how they assess, plan, contract and monitor home care services for older people with complex needs.

President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, David Pearson, says: “This guide will help commissioners be clear that we are responsible for ensuring that a high quality and sustainable care market exists in our council areas. This is a responsibility which we share with our NHS colleagues.”

He publication highlights latest research findings on social care and offers some practice examples of good work in this area. Aimed at health and social care commissioners of home care services for older people with complex needs, the guide lists more than 20 tasks to ensure people get what they need to keep them out of more costly hospital and nursing environments.

So much of it is commonsense, with recommendations falling into the areas of assessment, planning, contracting, monitoring and further research. But is does – and very successfully – underpin what should always be fundamental criteria.

A dignified life, supported in the community, is what everyone wants to aim for. And the cost of doing so must be seen as an investment into the NHS.

My concern is that all investment monies will be viewed as overspend, but the economies of scale here are huge. Initiatives like the Vitality Partnership to assess needs in the community, particularly for the elderly, and head off costly hospital admissions.

We must drive forward flexibility, person-centred packages that marry successfully social care and the NHS, create diversity among providers and monitor outcomes against emerging needs.

The SCIE is just one of many wheels in the cogs of change. It’s heartening to see that funding issues have also been addressed, but that’s worth a blog in its own right.

Clearly apparent is a genuine commitment to partnership, something that West Midlands Care Association has been driving forward for years. I can only hope that every commissioner takes the time to read the SCIE observations, findings and advisories.

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