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From new models to new cultures of care – Jeremy Taylor

The New Care Models Zone was one of four feature zones at this year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo. The zone explored the progress made by the 50 vanguards developing and testing new models of care that can be replicated across different health economies.

Jeremy Taylor, Chief Executive of National Voices, also chaired an expert panel discussion on the ‘Future NHS Stage’ at Expo – ‘From new models of care to new cultures of care.’ In this blog, he reflects on that discussion and takes a look at how this might work in practice. 

What does it mean to go from new models of care to new cultures of care? The NHS Five Year Forward View asserts that reform requires “a new relationship with patients and communities”. A new culture of care means responding to the full and radical implications of that insight.

NHS reform is understandably driven by the concerns of those trying to sustain the system from the inside. They ask “We are the NHS, what kind of relationship do we need with our users?” The challenge is to make sure that the equal and opposite question is heard with equal force:  “We are the people, what kind of relationship do we want with our health and with services?”

The People and Communities Board that I chair – a group helping to keep the focus on chapter 2 of the Five Year Forward View – launched six principles to help frame the thinking here. What would a new NHS culture look like set against these principles?

Principle 1 is that care and support is person centred. The New Labour government promised more patient choice and a care plan for everyone with a long term condition.  Andrew Lansley promised “no decision about me without me”. Yet in 2016, nearly half of patients still report that they are not as fully involved as they want to be in decisions about their care and treatment.  Personalised care planning remains a minority pastime.  Commissioners remain reluctant to invest in self- management programmes. A new culture of care would ensure that people’s experience of involvement and of being supported to self-manage would be treated as key measures of success for the NHS.

Principle 2 is that services are created in partnership with citizens and communities. The most forward looking parts of the NHS are getting there: patients involved in recruitment and contracting; in experience-led service design; in clinical education. Some services even have patient directors. But the NHS still struggles with this in a new culture, citizens would feel meaningfully involved in the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans. And it’s not just about being invited onto official turf.  We need to set our own agenda as citizens. In the words of one patient: “I don’t want a service, I want a life”.

Principle 3 is a focus on equality and narrowing inequality. Theresa May launched her new government with stirring words about the appalling mortality gap between rich and poor. A new NHS culture would be energised by this injustice. That would include thinking differently about “hard to reach” groups. As one NHS manager recently put it: “people from communities you call hard to reach are working in your trust”.

Principle 4 is that carers should be identified, supported and involved. Despite much policy and strategizing, carers remain an after-thought. In a new NHS culture, staff would be inquisitive about the significant others in a patient’s life.

Principles 5 and 6 are about the power of the voluntary and community sector and of volunteering and social action. It is what David Cameron once called the “Big Society”. It is what people in the NHS are increasingly recognising as the potential of social prescribing, peer support, and other asset based community approaches.

But it’s also about recognising the importance of community-based activities that are not always associated with “health and care.” Volunteer befrienders and peer supporters provide a valuable service, but so do local libraries, shops, pubs and clubs.  And so, critically, do jobs. Unfortunately just as people are starting to get what the “Big Society” really means, it is getting a lot smaller, as austerity bites into communities and the voluntary sector. In a new NHS culture people would be thinking a lot more laterally and creatively about how to connect with and support the health making forces in communities.

New models of care should not just be old wine in new bottles. In a new NHS culture, staff would be working with patients, understanding what keeps them well; and figuring out how to deploy the vast NHS resources to reinforce the creation of health and wellbeing.

Jeremy Taylor is chief executive of National Voices, the national coalition of health and care charities for England.

Jeremy acts as a representative, expert advisor, writer, commentator and speaker on issues that National Voices champions, especially person centred care, and patient and public engagement.

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