During the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak, it did at times feel that the virus really was the only thing going on. But we all know this was never the case. People continued to live with dementia, with depression, with diabetes and all other chronic conditions.
Now that health and care leaders are attempting to reconnect people with ongoing health problems to the clinical support they need, it is becoming apparent how difficult it will be to manage Covid-19 (which of course hasn’t gone away) as well as cancer screening, mental health support, joint replacements and so on, all at the same time.
We are concerned that one way of dealing with this overwhelming complexity might be to reconfigure the NHS as an emergency service only – focussed only on very acute problems, rationing access even more strictly, and divesting from anything that prevents people from falling into crisis in the first place. A ‘bare minimum’ health service.
But we also think there are real opportunities to rethink how we design and deliver care: closer to people’s homes, in partnership with communities, focused on what actually helps people cope. And what helps people cope hasn’t changed: they need connection, they need safety, they need something to get out of bed for. They need to know who is in charge of their care, what to do in a crisis and what they themselves can do to have as good a life as possible.
Listening to people describe their experiences and their hopes and aspirations on www.ourcovidvoices.co.uk has strengthened our belief that we won’t get any of this right if we don’t start with the people themselves. They know what they need, what works and what doesn’t. We are running two workshops in October and November that will help us figure out what this means for our own work – how can we partner up more effectively with patients, service users, carers, citizens and communities?
This autumn, we are bringing together a whole set of activities, reports, events and arguments under the banner Rebuild For All to use this opportunity for a positive restart, to convene the people and ideas we need to make progress and to demonstrate how the charity sector in health, are part of the solution.
We are launching a big report next week that summarises what we need to get right to really get the most out of the social prescribing programme and the link worker role, enabling the holistic and practical support of people who have both medical and non-medical needs. Register here for our launch webinar.
We will be launching in early October a summary of what people who were and are vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus tell us they need from health and care now. We have pulled this together under the headings of brand new I-Statements – please watch this space.
Also in October, we will be making an intervention around people’s experiences of waiting – and highlight what they need as they live their lives, and as specialist care is often still delayed and cancelled.
Taken together, all these ideas and arguments build up a picture of how we need to reconfigure care at the human scale – listening to what people say they need, and focused on the lives we actually live, not the conditions we have.