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PlaceShapers conference shares vision for integrated homes, health and care

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PlaceShapers conference shares vision for integrated homes, health and care

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Health

PlaceShapers conference shares vision for integrated homes, health and care PlaceShapers conference shares vision for integrated homes, health and care

The National Health Service (NHS) is on a ‘burning platform of funding’ and cannot continue as it does now; the future lies in new, community-based partnerships with housing and social care providers.

This was the message from a conference of health, housing and social care professionals this week. The event titled ‘Making service integration a reality’ was jointly run by PlaceShapers, the Department of Health and Public Health England, to bring together around 180 of the country’s top policy makers, thinkers and practitioners from all three sectors.

Speakers from across the spectrum of these traditionally separate disciplines united in calling for much closer joint working and the need to remove boundaries between budgets, cultures and priorities, to meet the rapidly rising and changing and needs of an ageing population.

PlaceShapers Chair Tony Stacey, Chief Executive of South Yorkshire Housing Association, said: “Our members are all housing associations that really care about customers and local communities, so engaging with wellbeing is a top priority. Colleagues in health and social care are facing huge challenges and pressures, and we see ourselves as part of the solution.

"PlaceShaper associations are already delivering a host of innovative projects to achieve greater integration, and we’ll be knocking on all sorts of doors to find ways to do more.”

Addressing the conference in a pre-recorded film because of Parliamentary commitments, the Minister for Care and Support, Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP (pictured), said: “Housing is a health-related service. We need to break down the barriers and make integration the norm, to provide truly personal services.” He cited health inequalities within a few miles of the Westminster venue, where life expectancy drops by one year for each stop eastwards on the Jubilee Line.

Founded in a very different time (1948), to meet very different needs for a very different profile of patients, the NHS faces a predicted £30 billion shortfall by 2020/21 if it continues to commission and pay for healthcare the way it does now. Annual spending on the 5% most acute aspects of care currently eats up 45% of the total NHS budget of £100 billion.

Professor Robert Harris, Director of Strategy for NHS England said: “This has to change, but a single, national approach won’t work. We need to vest resources in local communities, using the assets, infrastructure, know-how and relationships that housing providers already have.” He pointed to evidence from Sandwell in the west midlands, which showed that each pound invested in improving local housing saved the NHS more than twice that amount in reduced primary care, treatments and hospital admissions.

Speakers and delegates were unanimous in wanting to see a shift away from pills and hospitals that treat illness, to a preventative approach that promotes lifelong wellness and independence. Good quality, affordable and secure homes, integrated with flexible, tailored, personal social care and support are the foundations for the future. And as all the plenaries and workshop sessions showed, this change needs to happen quickly and at scale.

The Department of Health has set aside a £3.8 billion ‘Better Care Fund’ to promote this sort of joined up thinking and practice. PlaceShapers housing associations are at the forefront of pioneering partnerships to make it happen and show it works.

Michael Laing, Director of Social Care and Independent Living at Gateshead Council, praised Coast & Country Housing Association for its innovative use of assistive technology in cutting acute hospital admissions for older and vulnerable people. Soha Housing in Oxfordshire already carries out proactive visits to all its residents aged over 70, to identify social care needs and carry out ‘light-touch assessments’ for Dementia and other conditions that would impact on people’s quality of life if left undetected.

Reporting on her research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Imogen Blood urged all providers to focus on people’s lives as a whole, not organisational structures and service design. She stressed the vital role that housing agencies can play as: “Ringmasters, who pull together other support services and wrap them around people.”

She also stressed the importance of: “Round the edges support, where little things like helping people take medication can make a huge difference.”

Rick Stern, Chief Executive of the NHS Alliance and Director of the Primary Care Foundation, compared the cooperation achieved between health, housing and care providers to close obsolete asylums in the 1980s and 90s, to the need for joined up, community-based action now. “There are brilliant people working in hospitals who ought to be deployed in other, more creative and effective ways,” he said.

Closing the conference, having come straight from a briefing with the Prime Minister, Jon Rouse, Director General for Social Care, Local Government & Care Partnerships at the Department of Health, encouraged housing providers to: “Find and build local alliances that show the value you can offer, and help the health service on its journey to prevention.”

Delegates went away energised and inspired by what they’d seen and heard.

Lindsay Gibbins, Operations Manager for Health at Gentoo Group in Sunderland, said: “Today has shown that health and safeguarding is not just about decent homes. It’s also about the soft, people products we provide, like our coaching and ‘Art of Living’ programmes to give residents more skills and confidence.”

Dr Keith Redhead, a Norfolk GP attending with partner colleagues from Freebridge Community Housing in King’s Lynn, said: “I’ve learnt a great deal about the much wider role that housing associations want to play.”

Gill Leng, Housing and Health Lead for Public Health England, said: “The conference has highlighted how the housing sector needs to demonstrate what it can offer to health and social care organisations. It’s vital that we don’t just focus on social housing. With private renting growing fast, we need to think about people living in market tenures too.”

For more about the conference, see #pshealth or go to www.placeshapers.org and @placeshapers

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