Why do so many Doctors wear bow ties? I was wondering about this as I was at the NHS Alliance annual gathering in Bournemouth. It's a big collection of GPs talking about health and I wondered if bow ties are somehow more healthy than ties. Perhaps ties carry more infection? I think we should be told. I prefer a tie, if only because it hides a paunch better?
But a fun event. I like Doctors (well when I meet them like this as opposed to the one who quizzes me annually on my drinking habits). They are an interesting bunch and full of amusing tales of illness and disease. And the GPs at the Alliance tend to be the more progressive ones who see the value of changing how they commission services. Indeed ACEVO has done a joint publication with the Alliance on how to commission from the third sector. (Click to view).
I did my usual set piece on choice and competition in widening out the use of our third sector. I'm getting a more receptive audience now that the furore of the health bill has died down and we get on with the task of implementing it all. And I think increasingly GPs in the new system are thinking how they can commission our sector. But as always here are some who want to re-fight battles of old! Amusing to see the "national coalition for independent action", whatever this is, denouncing NCVO, NAVCA and ACEVO (amongst others)for having apparently signed up the voluntary sector to privatisation and the dismantling of the welfare state. It says this shows we have signed up to a party political agenda; they clearly don't have a sense of irony! Never quite understand why arguing for more third sector delivery of public services should be equated to "privatisation". In fact it's rather insulting to all those third sector staff and volunteers delivering excellent citizen and community focused services across the country.
Jeremy Hunt was there; a man on a mission. There to charm his way around the professions, not talk about reform and only talk about health and patients. Actually not a bad strategy! The NHS talks too much about organisation and process and not enough about the citizens who own it! He has a particular brief to improve services for the elderly and he knows he can't do that without a bigger role for the third sector in advocacy and delivery.
Earlier the Red Cross, in the excellent shape of Annie Bibbins, was talking about their work with the elderly. In 2011 400,000 people were supported by them to regain independence at home - especially in preventing admissions to hospital and facilitating early discharge with support being provided at home. They have 161 contracts with councils and NHS bodies across the country.
They want to expand their service and for the NHS to commission more so they can provide more services, for example a 24/7 offer in A&E, as they have been developing in Bristol. It's all about support and care on a practical and emotional level. Deloitte the accountants have assessed these schemes and looked at costs vs alternatives and they show a significant return on investment.
She also talked about the example of Hertfordshire village wardens. These are part time workers in villages; the job of the warden is to get to know the most vulnerable in their parish, particularly the over 80s. They also recruit and work with 120 volunteers and so 600 people are being supported. With help on transport, nutrition, safety, paying bills, advice and emotional support. It was a great example to support the announcement from Hunt about the survey to determine and tackle isolation.
So let's commission more of this. That's not privatisation. It's common sense and we want more of it!