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Blog: Health Minister’s 10 Year Vision for Health and Social Care

On Tuesday 25 November NIASW welcomed the publication of the Health Minister’s 10 year vision for Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland.

Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together outlines an approach to Health and Social Care focusing on prevention, early intervention, and supporting independence and wellbeing, with a commitment to the co-production of services with input from service users.

The Minister’s vision was informed by the report produced by Professor Raphael Bengoa’s Expert Panel which was tasked by the previous Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, to review the region’s Health and Social Care system.

NIASW worked to assert influence and represent the interests of the social work profession by lobbying throughout the review process. Meetings were held with Professor Bengoa, the Department of Health Permanent Secretary and Chief Social Work Officer, and Minister Michelle O’Neill.

NIASW’s campaign to support the launch of its report Above and Beyond: At What Cost? also contributed to influencing the content of the Minister’s vision. The vision incorporates commitments to address two of the key recommendations from Above and Beyond. It recognises the need for investment to fill vacant posts, and the need to overhaul IT systems and introduce technology solutions to enable staff to spend more time in direct contact with service users.

Outworking the Minister’s vision will undoubtedly have an impact on social work. Its implementation will:

·       Increase focus on primary care with the introduction of multi-disciplinary teams to include social workers alongside GPs, Pharmacists, District Nurses, Health Visitors and Allied Health Professionals. Additional funding will be focused on developing these teams.

·       Grow the Family Support Hub network.

·       Expand the range of placement options for Looked After Children and see engagement with the Courts Service to secure permanence for children more quickly.

·       Prioritise mental health and improve specialist mental health services to include further support for perinatal mental health and inpatient services for mothers.

·       Undertake a process to reform adult social care which will consider the nature, size and skills of the social care workforce.

·       Develop a Health and Social Care Workforce Strategy by Spring 2017.

·       Establish an Improvement Institute to better align existing resources including resources currently devoted to patient safety, regulation, evidence gathering and data analytics.

·       Develop a Health and Social Care leadership strategy.

·       Introduce a programme of service configuration reviews.

·       Establish a transformation oversight structure to oversee the Health and Social Care transformation process.

 

The scope of these plans is extensive and the impact will be significant. However, the situation represents an opportunity for positive change and NIASW will continue to work with the Department of Health, our politicians and all other stakeholders to ensure the interests of our profession are represented in the implementation of the Minister’s vision.