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Opinion: For housing and care providers, money, reputation and survival are all at stake.

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Opinion: For housing and care providers, money, reputation and survival are all at stake.

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

Opinion: For housing and care providers, money, reputation and survival are all at stake Opinion: For housing and care providers, money, reputation and survival are all at stake

By Ruth Cooke, chief executive, Midland Heart

On the radio today a Brazilian said: “My nation has one sport – volleyball. Football is a religion.”

We are in the throes of World cup 2014 – the stakes are high and the world is watching. National pride is again at stake, which is why last night’s result was so hard to take for millions of us watching at home.

Not everyone has that view of football, but if you ask almost anyone in the UK their view about the performance of our health and care services - something we all have a stake in – we talk about the chronic lack of funding; that we are growing older and living longer, the poor quality of care and the crisis in A&E. It’s a rare day when the media doesn’t involve an alarming story about any of these issues.

Too much is at stake if our health and care services don't deliver. For our most vulnerable customers it’s their dignity, their health, quality and enjoyment of life.

We have to respond to the changing needs of our customers. We are living longer, but are not as healthy. The complexity of the needs of our customers is changing – such as older people with a learning disability and young people who come to us with multifaceted health and social care issues, rather than single issues.

For housing and care providers, money, reputation and survival are all at stake.

Every single local authority we work with is faced with massive financial pressures. We are told we will lose 50% funding in some areas by the end of the year, with local authorities having to make incredibly difficult choices about what they fund and what they cut.

But it’s not just the money. We are at last having a proper discussion about what it means to provide a truly high class care service. But appallingly, it took the tragedies like Stafford Hospital and Winterbourne View to focus the general public on what we have always known.

With so much at stake what can we do?

At Midland Heart delivering a quality service is the most important thing of all. But it's important that as a sector we do not assume that because our work is doing 'good' it automatically means we are good or have a divine right to deliver the services we do. As a business the importance of robust evaluation and evidence is embedded in our approach, including the wider social value of our services.

It is good to see that this is also now being recognised as an important part of commissioning too - we recently signed up to the Birmingham Charter for Social Responsibility.

We know that if as a society we truly care about dignity for vulnerable customers we must pay the right wage to our staff. We have committed a plan to work towards living wage for all of our staff. The wider challenge for providers is whether they can afford to pay the living wage with the cost of services being driven down due to the lack of funding.

For Midland Heart part of the answer also about working differently.

We recently launched our Cedarwood service at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham in partnership with Heart of England and NHS Foundation Trust. It supports over 65s who are medically fit and due to be discharged but need additional support to get back on their feet before returning home. There is much talk about integration – we are delivering it.

Often we work with the same customers as our health colleagues, and we also want the right reform, we want to be recognised and part of the conversation, to make the voices of our customers heard. As members of the Care and Support Alliance we have a platform to do this. But with housing and care providers predominantly known as building and managing homes –the health sector doesn’t naturally regard us as part of the health and care solution.

The chance of winning a world cup comes every four years, but each and every day most people will turn a blind eye to the suffering of the most vulnerable people in our society. It shouldn't take a major scandal to make us stand up for proper care.

We need to focus on how we deliver better outcomes for customers and not repeat the same old services only to perpetuate the same old issues.

With the stakes so high our motivation to drive real change should be higher than ever.

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