Matt Hancock’s speech – the verdict
We were interested to hear the Right Honourable Matt Hancock MP’s first speech in his new role as Health and Social Care Minister. As Jeremy Hunt moves on to the Foreign Office, many in the health and social care sector will be wondering what to expect from the new minister.
This opening speech had lots to be excited about if you work in the NHS. Conversely, it had lots to feel disappointed by if you work in social care. Though we look forward with an open mind to what Matt Hancock brings to the table, we just wish he’d actually brought something substantive to the table for social care, instead of simply tagging ‘and social care’ onto every mention of the NHS.
At Insequa we are the social care experts – so our focus is on the social care part of the Health and Social Care Minister’s remit. We listened to Matt Hancock’s speech closely, trying to gauge where we might be going in the future. We have to admit to being largely, none the wiser.
We’d like to praise the Minister for the spirit in which he has embarked on possibly the toughest (Brexit Minister apart) role in government today. He has a huge task ahead of him to steer the vast NHS and social care portfolio into a safe berth and we shall be watching with a keen eye. His energy and enthusiasm seem genuine and we look forward to cheering him on as he ticks off the items on his ambitious to-do list.
He chose to focus on three areas in his speech which was delivered to NHS staff at a West Suffolk hospital. The following are his priorities in the short term.
He spoke about his commitment to the best training and support in the NHS to ensure ‘the right number of people with the right skills so you are able to provide the safest, highest quality care to patients.’ He didn’t mention social care recruitment and retention which is cited by our clients as the leading cause of problems in delivering the best possible service. Low pay rates, lack of professional recognition, poor career progression and bad/impossible working conditions are the leading reasons people abandon a role in social care. By definition, those who choose a caring role are invested in making the lives of others better – but the conditions many care workers are forced to operate under are driving them away because they feel unable to deliver quality care. Matt Hancock needs to engage in a separate dialogue with social care providers to address the unique problems felt by the sector – when it comes to workforce, the social care sector is out on its own and affected by different issues to the NHS.
Matt Hancock champions technology and has a vision of a health and care sector that delivers practical efficiencies, cost savings and improved outcomes through digital development. His speech highlighted the innovations being successfully utilised at Bridgeside Care Home in London – and whilst this is an excellent (indeed, CQC rated Outstanding) shining example of tech for good in social care, let’s not get carried away. We work with social care providers day in, day out, helping them to prepare persuasive and compelling bids to win local authority contracts – whilst Bridgeside’s level of technological investment is exemplary, it far exceeds what the average, overstretched and stressed care provider can realistically afford. Mr Hancock must give generously of his energy and ministerial cheque book to ensure social care benefits directly from the massive potential that tech transformation can bring across the UK.
Final item on the Minister’s to do list was prevention. This is where social care really can play a massive part and he should recognise this from the start. Social care is the NHS’ wing-man, adequately resourced, it will protect health services from being overrun.
Two further notes of caution:
1.The Green Paper for social care must one day become reality. It was kept at arm’s length by Jeremy Hunt when he pushed it back to the autumn (after originally promising it before the summer recess). We dearly hope that with a new minister at the helm, this change of personnel is not used as an excuse to push it back further. It can’t be used as an excuse for further procrastination – there isn’t time, frankly.
- Social care is used to being treated as the poor relation of healthcare – and whilst Mr Hancock’s speech included mention of exemplary tech-enabled Care Homes, integration and Mahatma Gandhi quotes:
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”,
we urge him to feel it when he says social care, not simply adding it to his health remit as a well-meant but largely ignored afterthought. He loves the NHS because they did a brilliant job of mending his sister when she was badly injured. Can he extend that love to social care, too? It too, does a brilliant job of looking after our sisters, brothers, mothers, sons, friends…