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Solace blog

9th January 2015

Introduction to Policy Portfolio: Community Wellbeing

This is a time of unprecedented change for the Social Care and Health system and we are pleased to take on the roles of Solace Chair and Vice Chair for Community Wellbeing and to be involved in shaping the agenda and creating greater integration of health and care.

Solace has advocated for a new, integrated approach to care and support for some time and we have some established areas of work underway. However, the scale of change currently underway gives us an opportunity to reflect on where the Society should be focussing its efforts over the next two years. We believe there are a number of key priorities:

• Continuing to make the case for integration of health and social care under democratic local leadership

• Offering practical support and assistance to members about approaches to achieving more integrated local systems

• Supporting Local Authorities to effectively embed the Care Act while continuing to push for a care and support system which is fiscally sustainable in the long term

• Supporting the systems leadership role of Health and Wellbeing Boards through sharing learning and offering
mutual support

• Working in collaboration with the Digital Leadership network to explore how digital approaches could transform
care and support

Over the past year, we have seen the introduction of the Better Care Fund, a mark of confidence in local government and a recognition that community-based services are critical if we are to provide better outcomes and opportunities for our citizens. It is a credit to local government officers, working with our colleagues in health, to have produced high quality and robust plans at a time of significant financial challenge and growing demand for our services.

Perhaps even more significantly, has been the introduction of the Care and Support Act and are pleased to be involved in the Department of Health Board established to oversee the implementation of the Act. We will work hard to ensure that Local Government continues to have a strong voice in this agenda. We would be happy to hear any comments you have on the Act to help us to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. For more information on the Act, please remember you can visit the Care and Support Reform pages on the LGA website. This gives a useful
guide on the changes for Chief Executives, Senior Managers, and Councillors.

A further mark of confidence in local government has been the transfer of public health. This has provided us with a great opportunity to work proactively with our citizens to improve health outcomes, reduce dependency on health and social care services and change behaviour so that people take more responsibility for their future health and wellbeing. We now look forward to the transfer of the remaining 0-5 public health commissioning to local authorities and are pleased that Solace has been invited to join the prevention programme board, led by Public Health England,
which oversees the NHS commitment from the Five Year Forward View. All of this provides a great opportunity for local authorities and health partners to continue the transformation of public health services across education, social are and the range of local government services.

In the coming years, we will see further models of integration develop across the country. A critical component of this agenda will be the proposed ‘Integrated Personal Commissioning’ model first announced by Simon Stevens last year.

We are now working with colleagues in the health service, local government, experts by experience and others under the ‘Integrated Personal Commissioning Board’ to shape and provide strategic leadership to the programme and look forward to seeing this progress.

It is also clear that technology will play an increasing role in health and care. From personal fitness monitoring to the informatics underpinning a future integrated system, digital approaches have huge potential. Places like Leeds are already beginning to show what is possible, leading the Informatics stream of the Pioneers programme and progressing rapidly toward a genuinely integrated ‘Leeds Care Record’. We will work closely with colleagues in the ‘Digital Leadership’ network to ensure Solace is on the cutting edge of shaping and sharing these developments.

It is critical that all of the changes both underway and planned are supported by strong leadership from Health and Wellbeing Boards. As you will have experienced in your own area, HWBs are beginning to demonstrate the gains that can be made by taking a collaborative, systems approach. We are keen that the Society plays its part in supporting the continued development of Health and Wellbeing Boards as they develop an ever more central role.

This is an exciting time and the developments in health and social care give us many reasons to be optimistic about the future. However, we must also acknowledge the serious challenges facing us. More immediately, we are seeing a number of trusts under severe pressure as their accident and emergency departments struggle to deal with demand.

Winter seems to already be outstripping the planning and provision in place and we will need to work hard across our local health and care economies to do everything we can to manage this. In future years, despite the benefits integration will offer, we will have to face the consequences of the historic underfunding of social care and the need to move toward a new health and care system which is fiscally sustainable in the long term. We will make sure that Solace continues to ensure that these challenges are not forgotten and that challenges to social care services are presented robustly.

Our aim over the next two years is to represent you, to grow our influence with central government and to ensure Solace plays its part in supporting you to introduce the changes so that they have the maximum benefit for people in our communities. We would like to work with you on the priorities we have identified and we will keep you informed of progress through the Society. We look forward to working with you at this critical and interesting time.

Policy Spokesperson: Jo Farrar, Chief Executive, Bath & North East Somerset Council

Deputy Spokesperson: Penny Thompson CBE, Chief Executive, Brighton & Hove City Council