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Benenden’s Clinical Director speaks out in support of an integrated system of care

30th September 2015

At this week’s Labour Party Conference, Benenden’s Clinical Director Jane Abbott spoke out in support of an integrated system of care which works for the benefit of patients and in partnership with healthcare mutuals.

In partnership with the thinktank Respublica, Benenden hosted a panel discussion at the Labour conference entitled ‘A Better Health Service: Placing people and communities at the heart of care’, with guests including The Rt Hon. the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath OBE, Rachael Maskell MP and Adrian Sieff, Director of Improvement at the Health Foundation.

Speaking at the event Jane Abbott, Clinical Director of Benenden said, “We have talked about integrated care for decades but have never managed to achieve sustained success.  Doing something about this is our collective responsibility. Rhetoric about integration uses terms like “joined up services” and “modernised services” without any real consideration for what these terms mean. 

“Policies which proposed integration suggest it can be achieved through, the devolvement of the planning and delivery of care to the local level and, increases in equity of service provision attained through nationalisation of standards of care and inspection.

“But what we see daily on the news is that these mechanisms are failing to deliver, not because the ideas are necessarily wrong, but because of a lack of definition and a failure to collaborate, or rather, integrate care with non NHS care providers. Let’s be clear as to why efforts to date are missing the mark; it is because we have failed to identify and work towards the real meaning of integrated: “combined in to a whole”. 

“And why should we be combining into a “whole”, rather than “joining up” or “modernising”? Quite simply because all too often “joined up” and “modernised” are not synonymous with “patient centred” and “holistic” and fail to acknowledge the need to organise services to reflect their function and the needs of consumers rather than old allegiances.

“A large part of this functional “whole”, which has long been missing in the health debate in the UK, is the place of private care providers, and, more particularly from my perspective, the place of mutuality.  Mutual societies are owned by the members, run by the members for the good of the members. Mutuals offer no threat to the NHS being predicated on the same principles of inclusivity and the greater good.  Mutuals are almost universally highly praised by members because they are consumer focussed and act in members’ best interests.

“Because of our shared heritage, mutuals are the natural partners for an NHS which needs to look externally for able and willing partners to help develop and embed ways of working which are increasingly person centred. Mutuals operate a model which fosters both a real and a social contract between members.  This social contract promotes understanding between members about their collective rights and responsibilities.  Clarity about rights and responsibilities in health care is something which UK care providers need to re-engage with if we are to have services which are equitable, sustainable and universal.  Mutuals can role model how this is achieved.

“Mutuals recognise the role of members in the development of services which are truly member-centric; that is individualised and holistic as well as integrated.  The NHS could benefit from this expertise designing care pathways which have a private sector feel safe in the knowledge that their partner is reinvesting all profits for the benefit of all.

“Benenden believes mutuals have a major role to play in supporting the NHS in terms of financing healthcare in the UK.  If we look to the success of our mutual colleagues in Europe, where the mutual model is well developed, we see mutuality in health care is sustainable.

“I believe the time is right for health care leaders and politicians to reflect and debate the future of health care and, putting aside outdated prejudices, look at all the options for improving care delivery in the UK. 

“The question we have to ask ourselves is not how can we protect the NHS in its current form, but how can we evolve the UK health care model in such as a way as to both recognise the ethical and moral heritage of our NHS while developing the quality of the care we offer the Great British public?

“One answer to this question has to include putting to one side the apple pie and motherhood view we have of the way the NHS works, and who it works with, in order that we can co-design a health care service which is truly suitable for the 21st century.”

For more information on how Benenden advocates the future of mutuals in healthcare, take a look at the Respublica Report, sponsored by Benenden. 

Ends 

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