A human touch: person-centred principles to assessments

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the immense pressures currently facing the social care sector. A recent Association of Directors of Adult Social Services survey found that councils are facing an 'avalanche of need', with 75,000 people waiting for assessments, care or support. While there are no statutory timescales for assessments under the Care Act 2014, waits of this length far exceed the one-month targets set by many councils and the four to six weeks deemed reasonable by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).

Local authorities are at the forefront of the challenges currently facing social care and the recent shift to assessing hospital patients’ social care needs post-discharge is only adding to the pressures. On top of this, the Government’s Health and Care Bill introduces a new duty for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to review and assess local authorities’ delivery of their adult social care duties. So how can local authorities monitor and demonstrate the effectiveness of the services they put in place to achieve high quality care outcomes for their local residents?

Using a solution for fairness and consistency

Utilising technology and adopting solutions is key to allowing local authorities and practitioners to effectively deliver a high level of care. Having access to a rich library of best practice assessment and planning templates not only provides a standardised approach for the industry, but it also arms them with a consistent, fair and equitable tool for assessing needs. However, it’s not a one size fits all solution; assessment forms and toolsets need to be customised and built flexibly to support and complement social care practice. Customisation is important as a local authority may have a specific demographic to cater for, such as a large number of veterans who require a particular level of care and specialist services, in comparison to other authorities.

Implementing action and reporting functions provides a transparent, traceable record of a person’s care assessment. This is hugely important as it enables the practitioner to adapt to the needs of that individual and react accordingly to offer the appropriate intervention or necessary support services. Assessments need to be digitised and seamlessly integrate with other case management software used by the local authority, allowing toolsets to be built into existing systems and records. The transparency of being able to trace the person’s care record adds a layer of interoperability as other health and social care practitioners can access the record if a person moves area into the boundaries of another local authority.

A complete end-to-end view of a patient

Being able to offer a true person-centred approach to accessing care needs starts from the outset. Although carrying out the actual assessment is the most important part of the process, understanding the patient’s entire journey throughout the social care system is equally as crucial. A person’s specific needs present a number of opportunities for the local authority to offer an extra layer of service to pinpoint the patient’s strengths and weaknesses. Understanding the bigger picture will allow practitioners to put in place preventative measures and issue guidance to really make a difference to the patient.

Rather than following a formulaic approach and creating a generalised care package for the individual, local authorities can initiate a more detailed conversation with that person and introduce measures to match their needs. If there are specific resources in the area that are available such as volunteer programmes or training courses, this may suit the needs of the individual better and lead to more positive outcomes for that person. For example, enrolling a former chef who requires additional care support on a culinary course, may help them regain their independence and boost mental well-being.

Bringing cost savings by improving care

Not only does this tailored approach improve the level of care for the wider population, it can also benefit the local authority as it may be able to reduce the number of allocated care packages, which can come at a substantial cost. The further benefits include reducing assessment waiting lists and ensuring the needs of a person are fully understood before additional support is provided as opposed to implementing the same care and support plan for every person. Reducing waiting times mean the person’s needs are addressed more quickly, leading to a more efficient and productive approach in the long term. This approach also aligns with the Care Act 2014 which advises practitioners to focus on well-being rather than solely allocating an assessment for services method.

Local authorities are at the forefront of the challenges currently facing social care and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented various pressures on an already stretched system. Working with local authorities to streamline the assessment process and implement a person-centred approach to assessing need will help to maintain and enhance the level of care across the board, while reducing waiting times and saving local authorities valuable money.