Jeremy Hunt's statement, when it was confirmed that he would continue as Secretary of State for Health, set out his priorities for the next five years. I was delighted to see it includes a focus on out of hospital care, including social care - a real sign of his intention to take the health and social care agenda in the right direction. I look forward to working with him and the new Minister of State for Community and Social Care on this.
In recent years there has been a recognition that the only way to make health and social care deliver at a time of increasing demand, is to focus on prevention, and social care has a key role to play in this.
More than half of people over the age of 60 have a single or dual sensory loss. Amongst older people sensory loss is the norm, and health and social care services need to take account of this. Anyone supporting older people needs to address their sensory needs.
So, here are five things the new Minister of State for Community and Social Care needs to remember:
- Everyone involved in out of hospital care needs to understand the prevalence of sensory loss amongst the population. Health and Well-Being Boards need to factor this into all their strategic work whether that is prevention strategies, market shaping or JSNAs.
- Primary care staff need to identify people with sensory loss and ensure they are getting the support they need, including appropriate referral to social care. Sense has a booklet, It All Adds Up, to help them do this.
- All community health and social care staff need to understand how best to support people with sensory loss, including good communication and guiding and how to provide accessible information.
- There is good evidence that sensory appropriate support has an impact on prevention. For people over 55 with a dual sensory loss, appropriate support makes a substantial difference to quality of life. (Chief Medical Officers Annual Surveillance Report 2012) There is evidence that cognitive decline amongst people with a dual sensory loss in nursing homes is not related directly to their sensory impairment but to their lack of social engagement - something which can be remedied with the right interventions. (Dual Sensory Impairment and Cognitive Decline, 2015)
- Social care is in desperate need of additional funding. The commitment to ensure an additional £8 billion of funding for the NHS over the next 5 years is welcome but without funding for social care it is also doomed to failure. The importance of social care and the need to see the health and social care system as an integrated whole is widely accepted. But investment in the NHS while cutting social care cannot deliver the vision the Government has set out. Whether through local Government or an integrated fund such as the Better Care Fund, some of that £8 billion must reach social care.