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News | Published August 09 2019

Cabinet Review: Matt Hancock

Following the recent appointment of Boris Johnson's cabinet, we have launched a series of articles to assess how each sector views their new Secretary of State. Our second instalment focusses on Matt Hancock who retained his position as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

To gauge the opinion of the sector, we asked a series of questions to each representative. In this article, we spoke to Liz Bosley-Sharpe, the Care Director of Sevacare, Bernard Garbe, Chairman of Vitalograph, and Linda Bedford, Managing Director of A1 Medical and General.

1. How have you found Matt Hancock has performed his role as Health and Social Care Secretary so far?

Liz Bosley-Sharpe: Matt Hancock has been publicly visible so far on matters of health and social care which has helped to promote all the key issues that the sector has been facing  for many years. This has helped to generate further public and government interest in forging a solution that will change the face of the industry.

He has promised to look at a sustainable future for social care and I am hoping that the focus he bring will not just be for the future of the NHS but for the future of the health and social care sector as a whole.

Bernard Garbe: The NHS is an impossible organisation to manage but every organisation needs a leader and he has done nothing to alienate his team, unlike his predecessor Jeremy Hunt who was particularly dismissive of pharmacists.

Linda Bedford: There has been little or no improvement, or in fact movement, in the health care sector. On TV he seems to be positive but my opinion so far is that he is ineffectual in his role.

Matt Hancock has been publicly visible so far on matters of health and social care which has helped to promote all the key issues that the sector has been facing for many years.

2. What areas would you like him to focus on?

Liz Bosley-Sharpe: Local authorities purchase around 70 per cent of homecare and are key to ensuring the market is sustainable and in a position to support the NHS. Support at home helps prevent hospital and care home admissions and allows faster discharge from hardpressed and expensive acute services .

A well-structured programme of investment in social care will provide considerable savings to our health service and also provide better paid and more secure jobs for careworkers. Beyond this, I would like him to establish independent oversight of commissioning of adult social care by councils and the NHS.

Bernard Garbe: I would like to see a breakup of the NHS into much more manageable operating units. I find the waste that I have seen in the NHS shocking, particularly in so called "research" areas which suck in resources and produce nothing. Some hospital research is excellent, but most seems wasteful or in some cases even harmful.

Linda Bedford: Social care and mental health are key issues at the moment but there are other underlying issues which also require urgent attention such as the disability allowance which is having a devasting effect on lives. There is a national shortage of staff as well as equipment: I have a relative in hospital who had to sit in a chair for eight hours due to lack of clean bedding.

I find the waste that I have seen in the NHS shocking, particularly in so called "research" areas which suck in resources and produce nothing. Some hospital research is excellent, but most seems wasteful or in some cases even harmful.

3. What concerns you most about the sector?

Liz Bosley-Sharpe: The care sector is currently facing a major recruitment and retention crisis. Although low unemployment is good for the economy overall, the social care sector is losing candidates to competing business sectors including retail and hospitality. While employers need to concentrate on recruiting and training from the domestic workforce, making that happen will require significant investment from local authorities and the NHS. That investment will be urgently needed should recruitment challenges become exacerbated by the UK leaving the EU.

Care workers are low paid but their work is highly skilled. If post-Brexit migration policy settles on high salary thresholds for skilled workers, the £30,000 threshold and required academic qualifications are unrealistic for most homecare employers and will leave social care increasingly unable to meet the demands from our aging population. The current lack of investment in social care means an estimated 1.4 million older and disabled people are not receiving the care they need.

Furthermore, I absolutely believe that there is a need for independent oversight of the commissioning of adult social care by councils and the NHS, just as Ofsted oversees children’s services. That oversight is necessary if we are to be confident councils will commission sufficient high-quality homecare in future.

In England, that means ensuring councils comply with their market shaping duties as set out in the Care Act 2014. Such a function should be carried out by the Care Quality Commission Finally, I believe the government should consider how the tax system encourages people to plan ahead to meet their own future care needs.

Bernard Garbe: All organisations are striving to become paperless but it is important to still be able to operate when internal systems go down or the internet and telephone systems fail. I worry that if and when a disaster strikes, the NHS becomes helpless just when it needs to be strongest.

Linda Bedford: A lack of investment.

While employers need to concentrate on recruiting and training from the domestic workforce, making that happen will require significant investment from local authorities and the NHS.

4. What has the department done well recently?

Liz Bosley-Sharpe: A lot of the changes have been NHS-led which is positive including newer hospital buildings and reduced waiting times for NHS treatment. However, there remains an urgent need for the reformation of the social care sector.

With Boris Johnson's pledge to fix the crisis in social care once and for all, I am hoping that this will see social care placed at the top of the health and social care agenda rather than lagging behind the NHS.

In social care, we must include the focus on “care at home” and not just “care homes”. The ability to provide choice and control to individuals is vital to the wellbeing of service users and long-term sustainability of the current funding pots.

Bernard Garbe: His [Hancock's] annual assessment of NHS England shows progress towards the deliverables in some important areas, including mental health. This is important regarding the other part of his portfolio: social care. Health and social care have a huge crossover in mental health.

Linda Bedford: I cannot answer this since the country has become accustomed to a lesser service and so the standards have dropped. Targets are becoming achievable due to sub-sectoring: for instance A & E waiting times are being met due to patients being moved to minor injuries. Despite this, timescales are not being reduced for the patient.

Targets are becoming achievable due to sub-sectoring: for instance A&E waiting times are being met due to patients being moved to minor injuries.

For more on the health and social care sector, read our Special Report into the Adult Social Care Green Paper here.


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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
@theparlreview
August 09 2019

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