The Chief Operating Officer of the Social Care Institute for Excellence previews Expo 2019 and looks at the agenda for helping people to care for themselves, stay fit, well and independent:
All of us have strengths, or to use the jargon, assets.
These are the skills, experiences, networks and local facilities we all possess or can access. People can draw on these to keep themselves well, to stay connected and to maintain their independence.
Strengths can be drawn on in the smallest of ways to make a difference.
I am one of several dads in my local area who have formed a WhatsApp group. When one of the other dads told us he was depressed, we all tried to help. Another felt he was drinking too much to relieve stress. We all decided to start swimming twice a week at the local leisure centre and provide each other with informal support. The first dad stopped his anti-depressants last week and is feeling more in control; and the other dad, who was drinking too much, has cut down dramatically. Both claim that this group was the impetus for the positive changes.
The NHS Long Term Plan wants to see more people to care for themselves and to stay fit, well and independent. Social care, driven in part by severe funding cuts, but also by the philosophy of strengths-based thinking, has for several years sought to encourage people to draw on their skills and networks to stay well. This is an agenda we can all unite behind.
Strengths-based or asset-based thinking offers a way forward for both the NHS and social care. In Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s new quick guide we define this approach as focusing on ‘what individuals and communities have and how they can work together, rather than on what individuals don’t have or can’t do’.
In the NHS Long Term Plan a similar agenda is being pursued under the umbrella of personalisation. Through a range of methods, including personal health budgets and shared decision making, people will have more choice over the way their care is planned and delivered, based on ‘what matters’ to them and their individual strengths, needs and preferences.
But can this new way of working make a difference?
Yes it can. In Wigan, as reported by The King’s Fund, an asset-based approach is improving public health. In Dudley, it is ensuring that people with mild depression or who are socially isolated are connected to others in their communities, reducing demands on GPs.
SCIE will be talking about more such examples at several sessions at the Health and Care Innovation Expo – the NHS Expo.
But it requires a different mindset and committed leaders. To encourage strengths-based approaches, you need to co-design services with people who use them and invest in the voluntary sector.
Get this right, however, and we can reduce demand on the NHS whilst greatly enhancing people’s quality of life.