Headlines: January 14th, 2003

Older people find it difficult to get simple and comprehensive advice about the services available to them. They also find services such as adaptations, disjointed, hard to understand, and slow to be delivered. The solution is to join up the housing departments of local councils, social services, health services and voluntary organizations. The severity of the challenge of joining up services emerges from advice issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Department of Health and the Housing Corporation.The joining up process involves breaking down demarcation lines between groups of staff and disciplines. It also includes ensuring tasks are not duplicated by different staff and different parts of the service system for older people. It means making flexible use of staff. In addition to the difficulty of bringing together organizations with different cultures and different processes, social change, such as people living longer, is going on at the same time.

The advice urges the creation of strategies for taking a ‘whole systems’ approach at a local level across health and social services, with key cross cutting performance indicators. The aim is to promote a single assessment for each individual and to develop an integrated ‘care pathway’ approach that helps track the well being of the whole person. Social care and health systems such as assessment, hospital admission and discharge and intermediate care would all be linked together.

The advice is not mandatory but the Housing Corporation will not invest in further specialist housing for older people in the area unless the local council and their health partner have a strategy in place.