As the Health and Care Bill makes its way through its Parliamentary stages, organisations across the county are preparing for the introduction of NHS Integrated Care Boards and Integrated Care Partnerships later this year bringing together health and social care services under one organisation. But here at the Ethos Group combining health and social care is already an everyday fact of life.
It’s 8.30am and Karen has just signed in for her working day at the Ethos Group bungalows. She doesn’t feel like a trail-blazer but in fact Karen and Ethos are leading the way in showing how an integrated package of services can help our clients prepare for the reality of life after spinal cord injury.
Karen Schofield is the Ethos specialist housing support co-ordinator and helping us run our three properties in Oswestry where people with life-changing physical disabilities can live in a supported environment while preparing for independent living.
We at Ethos work closely with the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital but we also take clients from across the country.
Karen’s typical day pulls together all elements of a client’s needs cutting across the divisions between health and social care to focus on the individual and their route to a new life.
Her morning could be spent liaising with health care professionals and personal assistants on the medical needs of an individual client as well as sourcing appropriate equipment, physiotherapy and care packages.
A couple of hours later she is helping another client sort out their welfare benefits or start their search for appropriate housing. And later on she may turn to accessing mental health support for one client or volunteering possibilities for another as a route back into employment.
Karen admits that the range of knowledge and contacts she needs can be daunting but she says that the integrated approach promoted by the Ethos team reflects the realities of real life with spinal cord injury.
“I liaise with housing authorities, occupational therapists, social workers, care companies and help clients sort out their financial support - all the things they need to get on with their lives again,” she says.
The Ethos joined-up approach and Karen’s role within it is a well-established example of the principle embodied in the Health and Care Bill currently making its way through Parliament and due to come into force in the summer. It will result in the abolition of clinical commissioning groups and the setting up of NHS Integrated Care Boards and Integrated Care Partnerships bringing together health and social care under one umbrella organisation.
The Bill and the White Paper that preceded it set out a vision of a health and care system which the Government says is more integrated, more innovative and responsive recognising the social benefit in an integrated system built on collaborative relationships.
Our chief executive Fae Dromgool says that Ethos Group was originally set up in 1995 as Transhouse on the basis of integrating all the services clients would need under one roof.
“Our aim has always been to provide a supported environment with access to all the services and advice that our clients need to move towards an independent life. It doesn’t matter if those services come from the NHS, adult social care, the welfare system or anywhere else - they are all essential in helping our clients achieve that overall goal,” she says.
“The benefits of our style of co-ordinated health and care services are already enshrined in the Care Act 2014. It says that people should be given the care and support they need to achieve the outcomes that matter to them in their life. That has always been what we have aimed to do so we welcome that approach being reinforced by the latest legislation,” she adds.
As for Karen she really enjoys her full-time role as specialist housing support co-ordinator at Ethos and finds she loves the challenges of each new day.
“I had been working as the team leader with the social care company that provides personal assistants to Ethos clients and so I was already involved with the charity before I took this full time post with Ethos. I’ve worked in all aspects of the care sector for 35 years. My working day will very much depend on the needs of individual clients – and they are all very different.”
“Ethos does a fantastic job for its clients and if I can make a difference for someone who has had their life changed by injury or illness through no fault of their own then that makes me feel really good,” she says.
Ethos is currently recruiting new trustees and is particularly keen to welcome those with health and social care experience. For further information see the Ethos Group website at www.ethoscharity.co.uk or contact us by email at email@example.com or by telephone at 01691 404359.
Even if you cannot help us as a trustee, please help us spread the word about the work we do to support our clients to live independently after suffering a life-changing injury or illness by liking our Facebook page and following us on Twitter and LinkedIn at ethosgrouposwestry.