A thousand social care workers to transfer to NHS

Staffordshire county council plans to transfer 1,000 adult social care employees to NHS to create the UK’s biggest integrated health and social care provider

Staffordshire county council plans to transfer nearly 1,000 adult social care staff to the NHS in what will be the UK’s biggest integrated health and social care provider.

The council said that the plans to move 997 staff, including social workers, across to Staffordshire and Stoke-On-Trent Partnership Trust, a community health provider, would lead to the delivery of a more integrated service. It said patients would spend less time in hospital and receive more treatment at home

The proposals, which the Guardian social care network understands are almost definitely to get the go-ahead, are awaiting the approval of the strategic health authority for the NHS West Midlands region. The plans will then need to be signed off by the Department of Health. Once approved, employees could be moved as soon as April.

Matthew Ellis, cabinet member for adults and wellbeing at Staffordshire council, said the authority started putting the plans together in 2009 “before others had cottoned on” to the idea.

“We realised that too many people were ending up in the hospital system unnecessarily,” he said. “And this was due to the social care system not intervening early enough. The fact is that at the moment the different areas of health and social care do not join up adequately.”

Ellis said there was scope to make substantial savings from the move, which would then be reinvested back into social care.

Staff have welcomed the idea, Ellis said, after they were given the opportunity to provide input to a year-long consultation on the plans. “They’ve been incredibly receptive, not least because they recognise the shortcomings of a dislocated health and social care system,” he said.

Ellis added that he was also confident that moving staff from one organisation to another wouldn’t present too many difficulties, but said he envisaged any problems to be around the pension scheme and terms and conditions. “These will be smoothed out pretty quickly though,” he said.

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Care Workers (BASW), said that the main focus should be on the quality of care that people receive.

“There is no evidence as yet as to the impact that changes to where workers are located will have on the quality of care that people receive,” he said. “We are more concerned by the increasing trend to use unqualified and unregistered care staff, and by the impact that cuts are having on thresholds that qualify people to receive help.”

Dawson argued that the health profession has a history of thinking that social care can be “subsumed by medical decisions” when in reality they are two different cultures.

“We would like to be reassured that these changes reflect a reduction of spend on pointless bureaucracy and layers of management, and not a reduction in quality of care,” he said. “We also note the previous well documented problems at Stafford hospital, and trust that lessons have been learnt.”

Central government has called for the merging for health and social care, in an effort to save money and provide a more joined up service for patients. This includes more involvement from local government and the creation of health and wellbeing boards, which the government hopes will provide a strategic forum for commissioners working across the NHS, public health and social care to improve health outcomes.