BASW says health reforms are too rapid

BASW is urging the government to allow organisations more time to consider radical reforms to the NHS in England, warning that they are being driven forward too quickly.

In its health White Paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, published in July, the Westminster government announced it would axe primary care trusts (PCTs) and transfer funds to family doctors.

But BASW has warned that the move will undermine joint working between health and social care.

In its submission to the government’s consultation on the White Paper, BASW policy officer Joe Godden says: “A lot of good quality work has taken place over the past decade which could be put in jeopardy if responsibility for commissioning of health services transfers to GP practices.”

“It could affect all areas of social care, including child protection, mental health services, rehabilitation, hospital discharge and learning disability partnership boards.”

Ruth Cartwright, England Manager at BASW, added: “GPs will be faced with having direct responsibility for rationing of health services – the buck stops with them. Social workers have years of experience of managing budgets and rationing services and they know that this can be painful.

“We need to ask some difficult questions such as: will GPs be equipped to enter the complex world of contracting? What will the plan be when a provider goes bust or decides to withdraw? Will competition between providers increase costs for providers? And will costs be passed onto the GPs and ultimately the patient?” We know that the experience of social care in commissioning and contracting for care has been a very mixed experience with the balance between cost and quality of service extremely challenging.”

Despite its grave reservations over the scale of the reforms and speed at which they will be introduced, BASW supports some key elements of the White Paper:

• The commitment to continue to support the NHS constitution and an NHS that is available to all, free at the point of delivery and based on need rather than ability to pay • proposals to give patients, service users and carers more say and involvement in their care and the running of the health service • a reduction in bureaucracy and consolidation of data collection and increased involvement of local authorities and communities in public health.