Collaboration is Back in Favour
The most encouraging thing I heard at the ACEVO Health and Social Care Conference is that emphasis on competition is waning and being replaced by cooperation and integration. All the political parties talked about a new relationship with the Voluntary Community Sector (VCS) and the need to work more collaboratively. Andy Burnham, shadow secretary of state for Health talked about a new legislative framework for the sector, recognizing that it needs to be treated differently from other providers because of the added value that it brings to the wider community and to health outcomes. This is music to my ears as I have felt for a very long time that competition as a tool to raise standards was doing just the opposite and dragging us down to the lowest common denominator. My lowest point was when an IMCA contract was subject to a reverse auction where the lowest bidder won the contract. This is a service for the most vulnerable people who lack capacity and have no one to support them.
Although competition can stir things up, stimulate innovation and new ways of doing things, it’s a blunt instrument that can force people to focus on cost rather than quality. New ideas and creative thinking can be stimulated through partnerships of like minded individuals who want to do the best for their communities. This is real co-production where everyone has a stake in success.
I look forward to reading ACEVO’s report on Alliance Contracting which moves away from a bilateral relationship with commissioners to one that is of equal partners who share risks and reward.
For years people have been calling for a more integrated approach to health and social care services. This means focusing on care pathways rather than individual services and where services are accountable to each other as well as to the service user.
Advocacy services can play a major role in aiding an integrated model of care by supporting people to articulate their needs and wishes, access appropriate services, empower them to live independent lives and speak up when things go wrong. seAp would be very keen to work with any commissioners or providers to test our model.