Why we must shift the power

I’m delighted to be sharing some thoughts with you in this, my first blog as Deputy Director of the Coalition for Collaborative Care. It is an exciting time – the launch of a new partnership, a commitment in the NHS Five Year Forward View to put people with lived experience at the centre of the NHS and the chance to work with a talented and inspiring team. It is also a challenging time, and we have a big task ahead of us to change both culture and practice across the NHS to get a better deal for people with long-term conditions.

My guiding principle in helping to shape and lead this work is this: the single most important thing I have learnt during my years working in health, social care and communities is that a service model of identifying need, professionals formulating solutions and then delivering to a set standard via targets and monitoring is a model that is doomed to failure for two main reasons. Firstly, there will never, ever, be enough public resource available to solve every problem and deal with every need you find. Secondly, it ignores the very essence of what it is to be human: our need to be valued, for self-esteem, to be part of families, friend networks and communities, and to be independent and in control of our lives.

Public services that ignore our human nature as social animals can never get the best outcomes. I think this is something we all instinctively know, what you might call common sense, though we have yet to make connecting people together or an asset-based approach an intrinsic part of any mainstream public service.

Some time ago I spent a number of years as a local councillor. Like most local politicians I stood for election because I wanted to make a positive difference to my community and to improve lives. It was hard work but hugely rewarding and, looking back, I’m happy that I did my bit to make a difference. However, as much as I wanted to make things happen myself it was the effort I made and saw others make to nurture and unleash the assets of communities and local people that made the biggest difference. The projects that involved tricky partnership-working that were led jointly with local people that supported groups and empowered communities – they were the ones that achieved most and lasted longest.

Community development does cost money, but shifting power to people means that public resources can achieve far, far more than they can alone. This is what motivates me in my new role. I believe that we will make a huge difference together and will be thankful that we got the opportunity to be part of this movement for change.

Catherine Wilton is Deputy Director of the Coalition for Collaborative Care

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