Comment: People must be at the centre of our care

We welcome plans to further develop systems of listening to the voices of people who use health and social care services. Picture: TSPL
We welcome plans to further develop systems of listening to the voices of people who use health and social care services. Picture: TSPL
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OVER the last eight years, the ALLIANCE has been arguing that public services need to recognise that individuals and communities are part of the solution. Our strapline “People at the Centre” has become a call to arms in public service reform.

We have argued that working with people rather than viewing them as passive recipients of services, and empowering people to control their future, might allow us to consider new ways of looking at how we design services.

The ALLIANCE has promoted progress in person-centred approaches, particularly self management, co-production, self-directed support, community-led health, independent living, advocacy, personalisation, mutuality and human rights.

We have argued for a radical review of how we engage and work with people, a review not driven merely by financial necessity but by a sense of empowerment which drives health and wellbeing outcomes, and there is evidence leading-edge local authorities and others have taken up the mantle.

More specifically, we have demonstrated that health and social care support and services can often play a critical role in supporting people to become more independent.

Despite good progress here, a recent survey of the ALLIANCE’s 700-strong membership found that people felt their experience of support and services was underappreciated in the decision-making processes in health and social care.

In June, the Cabinet Secretary, Alex Neil, delivered the strongest commitment yet to the most fundamental aspect of care; listening to the voices of people who use support and services. Mr Neil spoke of a desire to support people who access services and their families to be heard in a much clearer way, “in everything we do and at every level”.

The ALLIANCE, with our members, has played a strong role in shaping key elements of the 2020 Route Map, particularly the emphasis on people-powered health and wellbeing, self-management and co-production.

We welcome plans to further develop systems of listening to the voices of people who use health and social care services, and look forward to working with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Scottish Health Council to deliver the Cabinet Secretary’s ambition.

Much of the architecture for this already exists and the Scottish Health Council’s impressive range of participation activity, along with the Alliance Involvement Network, offers a sound platform to build on.

An inclusive partnership ethos is required to deliver this, however, and the role of the third sector in developing user-led momentum will be crucial.

Since our organisation came together in 2006 under the banner of “people not patients”, we have drawn on the voice, experience and expertise of people who use support and services. These have been the driving force behind every aspect of our work.

Through programmes such as the Self Management Fund, recently cited by Sir John Elvidge’s Carnegie UK Enabling State initiative as a key example of how to deliver the vision described by the Christie Commission, and the People Powered Health and Wellbeing Programme, the ALLIANCE has put lived experience at the heart of policy and practice.

Through our growing national Involvement Network, established two years ago to provide a dynamic mechanism to enable people to bring their lived experience to bear within health and social care, we have been able to support people who use support and services to contribute to a diverse range of campaigning and policy activities to influence change and make their voices heard.

As part of our contribution, we aim to develop, with our members, our Involvement Network locally to inform and assist the new Health and Social Care Partnerships.

Scotland is a small country with big ideas and we are determined to imagine a future, an inclusive, fair and equal future, which has people at the centre of services.

• Ian Welsh is the chief executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland