National Voices' conference, on a cold January day in the midst of “winter pressures” and a dire funding situation for health and social care, was nevertheless an event full of hope and optimism.
Of course, there is plenty to feel gloomy about. Andrea Sutcliffe of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) shared her assessment that social care is near a tipping point. Duncan Selbie of Public Health England reminded us of the stark health inequalities that are mostly not amenable to healthcare. Rose Thompson of BME Cancer Communities spoke out about the death of many small charities working on issues faced by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.
But we also heard from leaders and practitioners at the forefront of approaches which are person-centred, community–focussed or, as Chris Dabbs of Unlimited Potential preferred to call it, relationship-focussed. It was a reminder that across the health and care world there are people with values and vision; there are tried and tested methods that work; there is creativity and innovation; there are practical and evidence-based offers from the VCSE sector; and there are people actively trying to spread good practice.
Whether or not, in the words of Sam Jones, there has yet been a “step change” in the degree to which care is becoming person-centred, is a matter for debate. But it was greatly encouraging that she used our conference as the platform to announce that 15 of the new care model vanguards will intensify efforts to embed person-centred approaches, building on the vision in Chapter Two of the Five Year Forward View, and the legacy of Realising the Value.
At the start of the day, I offered some tests to apply to what we heard. Did it represent a move towards a “fully engaged scenario” (Wanless 2002); “a new relationship with people and communities” (Five Year Forward View, 2014); or “patients present and powerful at all levels”? (Berwick 2013). Judged by the energy and passion in the room, the answer would have to be yes.
Thanks to all who contributed to making yesterday such a positive day. It was our biggest ever conference and gives National Voices plenty of challenges and opportunities to follow up.