SCIE opinion - 23 April 2013

Any comments on this opinion? Please email

Photograph of Lord Michael Bichard

Good Care Week

From SCIE’s Chair, Lord Michael Bichard

Here’s a vicious circle: Good care needs resources. We can all make a case for investing more resources into social care, especially because there are more people living with complex and long-term conditions. However, in these difficult economic conditions, additional resources aren’t always going to be available. So, perhaps during Good Care Week, we should ask: how are we going to cope?  There are many examples of excellent care that are provided at a lower cost. But of course funding pressures are having a real impact on commissioners, providers and individuals.

We need courage; for instance, having the gumption to reallocate resources from acute care to social care. This may mean persuading politicians to have the courage to support the closure of some acute facilities when they can no longer be justified. Then the savings need to be put into social care so that more and more future acute need is reduced by doing preventative work. At SCIE we have lots of resources on preventative social care. Have a look at these two Social Care TV films. Early diagnosis of conditions such as dementia and strategies to reduce falls in the home can help but are not pursued with uniform urgency.

We need to get better value from existing resources by identifying where good practice happens; and then quickly reproducing it. Regulation is necessary, but compliance is a slow route to excellence.  We need to go beyond inspection to improvement and fast. That was one of the things that attracted me to my post as Chair of SCIE. The need to provide guidance on what works and how to implement it remains constant. That is what SCIE delivers and will continue to deliver.

More can be done to embrace technology to improve care in all settings. This week, SCIE is producing a MORI / Get Connected survey on how care staff are using technology in their work and I’m sure it’ll make for interesting reading. However, this needs to be happening in all care settings, including in people’s own homes. This has the potential to save money at the same time.

Integrating health and social care needs to happen both locally and nationally.  It has been reported that, by integrating older people’s services in Essex, they could save £350m by 2017/18.  According to a Local Government Association report, if the approach is taken up across the country, it could provide a five year net benefit in excess of £6bn.  But Whitehall and Westminster need to do more, not just applaud such attempts.  They need to reform their own ways of working to help rather than hinder such initiatives.

We need to build on work that includes users and civil society to redesign services, with more of a focus on the needs of users and less on the convenience of our bureaucracies.  Silos can waste money. So I’m delighted to join SCIE at a time when its Co-Production Network is taking off.

And finally, we could all be insisting that no political party goes into the next election without a clear manifesto for social care.  As the House of Lords Select Committee that I recently sat on, pointed out, we are currently “woefully underprepared” for the challenges of an ageing society.  Social care is a major social and political issue for the future and government needs to remedy that.

Social Care Online

Keep up to date