Last week National Voices teamed up with the Richmond Group of Charities and NHS England to host a national conference called ‘Putting people and communities at the centre: creating the 21st century model of care’. The day explored what needs to happen to make the NHS Long Term Plan work for people living with long term conditions and frailty.
It was great to be in a room with so many enthusiastic and passionate people who were ready to make person-centred care a reality for the 15 million people in England living with one or more long term health conditions.
The day opened with a presentation from James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care at NHS England and Charlotte Augst, National Voices’ Chief Executive. James laid out the ambitions for Universal Personalised Care – the plan to roll out person-centred practices like shared decision making, care planning and social prescribing – which was a good scene setter for the rest of the day. Charlotte stressed the challenge we face in being at the tail end of austerity and needing to ‘build the infrastructure as we ride it’, including voluntary sector infrastructure bodies. After all, you can’t prescribe a peer support group to someone if there is no community service there to provide it. The voluntary sector offers lots of services that improve wellbeing and social connectedness, but it is not free. It does not run on fresh air and kind words.
A key theme that came through from the day was the need for collaboration – between different parts of the statutory sector, voluntary sector organisations and indeed across the two. No single organisation, place or person can provide appropriate support to every aspect of a person’s life. But if we all work together, bringing our expertise and acknowledging when we’re not best placed to solve issues, we’ll have a better chance of making the ambitions in the Long Term Plan a reality.
Primary care networks have a key role to play in integrating GP practices, NHS community health services, social care and voluntary sector organisations, so that people can get timely access to appropriate support. Primary care is an area that National Voices is excited to be working in, as our Director of Policy explains in his recent blog. An engaging speech from Dr Nikita Kanani brought to life how primary care networks hope to deliver preventative, personalised care and support for communities. But she echoed Charlotte’s earlier warning that we need to invest in voluntary sector infrastructure if we are to fully realise the networks’ potential.
Rhetoric to Reality
For me personally, the day made me reflect on National Voices and our role in making person-centred coordinated care a reality. National Voices was set up 10 years ago with the ambition of getting person-centred care firmly on the national policy agenda. Now, with the publication of the NHS Long Term Plan and the roll out of Universal Personalised Care and the Comprehensive Model; with conference halls filled with enthusiastic people all united in their excitement for the potential positive impact of holistic, coordinated care, I think it’s fair to say that, in broad terms, the policy argument is won.
The challenge now is to make that good stuff happen every day, in GP practices, clinics and community health services across the country. We know it won’t be easy. Workforce shortages, lack of resources and an entrenched paternalistic culture mean that what we’re asking for is counter-cultural. And it’s hard. It’s easier not to dig deeper to understand the real reason an elderly lady is going to see her GP every week. It’s less work if you don’t have to arrange a multidisciplinary team meeting to discuss one person’s complex needs, and it takes less time if you don’t have to have a care planning conversation. But as Charlotte said in her speech, the prize – better care for the many people who currently experience bad outcomes – is so valuable, we can’t afford not to try.