Vicky is programme director Connected Local Government, a regular host on CLGdotTV programmes and has served public sector IT for more than 25 years@vickysargent
James Higgott of NHS Digital describes the research behind the new guide and why councils are best placed to provide localised information.
This programme is available as a podcast see below
The NHS Care and Support Guide attracts 4.5 to 5 million visits annually with users seeking information and services – often in a crisis – and finding NHS.UK (formerly NHS Choices) coming top of Google results for searches like ‘care homes’ or ‘home help for elderly’.
The Guide has been substantially revamped following extensive research with carers, service users, third sector organisations, as well as local authorities, who fund, organise, and are responsible for providing information, advice and guidance on care services for their local populations.
The research found much confusion about what care services are available and who provides and pays for them, not just among the public, but among doctors and other NHS staff also. Many people do not understand that while NHS-funded (ie medical) services are free at the point of use, care services are not. A key aim of the new guide is therefore to better explain ‘the system’ for all who use it or work in/with it.
When it comes to finding services, NHS Digital concluded that NHS.UK was not the place to publish and maintain this information. Care homes and day care providers are regulated by the Care Quality Commission and are therefore already easy to find online.
The big challenge is finding and maintaining information on the local and hyperlocal services that are becoming an increasingly important part of social care provision as the emphasis moves from institutional care to social prescribing, prevention, technology, and other provision that supports people to maintain independence in their own homes.
Local authorities, with feet on the ground within their geographies, are best placed to find and publish information about activity clubs, meals, shopping and gardening services, and the huge range of support services provided by private third sector organisations.
In fact, most local authorities already publish such directories. NHS.UK has therefore focused on improving the handoff from its site to local authority sites and directories, rather that spending resources repeating this activity.
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