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“Poor morale, poor decisions and erosion of identity” – dangers of health integration

BASW has restated its reservations about the dangers of integration as the UK’s largest merger of local authority and NHS care services prepares to go live.

Following the announcement that from April 1 the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust will become responsible for adult social and community healthcare within Staffordshire and all community healthcare in Stoke-on-Trent, BASW professional officer Joe Godden warned of the potential for “a loss of professional identity, poor morale amongst staff and poor decisions amongst management”.

The integration will see almost 1,000 social care staff and a budget of £153 million transferred from Staffordshire County Council into the new organisation, a move designed to increase efficiency, offer a more joined up service and deliver up to £30 million pounds of cost savings per year.

Drawing on research from the BASW’s Charter for Social Workers in integrated health and social care services in England, Mr Godden said: “BASW has spoken to hundreds of social workers in the last year who are being and will be affected by these changes. The overwhelming view of social workers is that they want what is best for the service users and who they are employed by ultimately does not matter. However, social workers are practical people and as such are fully aware of the potential pitfalls of integration.

“Good governance is key, as is supervision and a dedication to protecting the role and function of social work. There is also a concern about backdoor cuts, is integration a smokescreen for an increase in the amount of tasks being undertaken by support staff instead of qualified practitioners?”

Speaking of his hopes for the integration, however, County Councillor Matthew Ellis, Cabinet Member for Adult Wellbeing, said: “Less bureaucracy means more time spent with patients, concentrating on their care needs. We are changing the face of health and social care services in Staffordshire and it is a significant step in the journey to join up wider healthcare services which will mean better quality of care for patients.

“We have worked together with the NHS to design a radical and creative solution that both improves the services to local people and reduces the cost of providing them meaning we are better able in Staffordshire to meet the demands of an ageing population.”

Read the BASW charter in full