BGS Policy Update, Spring 2018

Caroline Cooke, BGS Policy Manager

There have been lots of positive opportunities for engaging with key opinion formers and decision makers in the last few months. We have been busy making the most of these opportunities, as well as continuing to build and strengthen our links with other organisations that we want to work with. 

Recent policy developments  

New Ministers - Two new Government Ministers have been appointed to posts that are of direct relevance to our work: 

  • As part of the Prime Minister’s reshuffle in January, Caroline Dinenage MP was appointed Minister of State for Health and Social Care.  Her responsibilities include the Green Paper for Social Care and she is chairing the expert advisory group on the Green Paper which Eileen Burns is currently serving on.  Each member of the expert group, including Eileen, had individual meetings with the Minister in January.  
  • Following publication of the final report from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness in December, the Prime Minister announced the creation of a new Minister for Loneliness, which Tracey Crouch MP and Minister for Civil Society has been appointed to.  

Workforce Strategy, 2017-2027

In December, Health Education England published a consultation on the development of its workforce strategy for the health and care workforce for England up to 2027.  We submitted a full response which is available on the Policy Update section of our website.  In our response we set out our vision for an expansion of home and community based care, and flexibility in place of care for older people with fluctuating health conditions.  We also highlighted the need for a focus on older people to be fully embedded in the core curriculum for all healthcare professionals, and  joined-up and long-term planning for geriatric medicine.

New Strategy for Loneliness

A cross-government strategy on loneliness is currently being developed and will be published later this year.  The aim is to bring together government, local government, public services, the voluntary sector and business to identify opportunities to tackle loneliness.  BGS will feed into this via its membership of the Loneliness Action Group convened by the British Red Cross.  

I attended the first meeting of the Loneliness Action Group on 27 February.  The group is convened by the British Red Cross, to work collectively to address loneliness.  The group’s purpose is to take forward the agenda set out in the Jo Cox Commission’s call to action report.   The first meeting provided an excellent opportunity to influence strategy as it was attended by the two civil servants who are developing the Government’s strategy and who were in full listening mode.    

Parliamentary engagement

On 24 April, our President, Dr Eileen Burns spoke at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People.  The group has been conducting an Inquiry into human rights and ageing, and this meeting focused on the right to good and adequate care.  The group is aiming to publish its Inquiry in early June.    

House of Commons Select Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into reform of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS): in February BGS sent in a submission to the Inquiry which was seeking views on the Law Commission’s report and draft bill on the reform of the legal framework for DoLS.  While having a small number of concerns we have welcomed the Law Commission’s proposals which, if implemented, would result in a less bureaucratic and more streamlined process which places an emphasis on the ‘protection’ rather than ‘deprivation’ of liberty.

House of Commons Joint Inquiry into the long-term funding of adult social care by the Select Committees on Communities and Local Government, and Health and Social Care: the purpose of the Inquiry is “to identify funding reforms that will command broad consensus to allow progress in ensuring the long-term sustainability of both the health and care systems”.  In our submission we make clear that we believe sustainable funding of social care can only be achieved by placing patient-centred care at the heart of its design and that we need a model of care based on the wishes of older people themselves, with a recognition that this will require financial investment as well as redesign.

APPG Inquiry into improving access to hospice and palliative care.  In April BGS submitted written evidence to this Inquiry. We highlighted the expertise, knowledge and skills of our members, in meeting the needs of frail older people as they approach the end of life.  We called for greater investment in ensuring older people have access to specialist palliative care teams where appropriate regardless of diagnosis or place of care, as well as pointing to the current lack of capacity in specialist services to meet the increasing needs of our older population.  The full submissions is available on our website, and we have just received notification that we are likely to be called to present oral evidence.  

Other external policy engagement

In addition to the external groups and organisations we meet regularly with, there have been some positive opportunities to raise the profile of BGS and promote the work and expertise of our members.  

Eileen Burns and I recently attended a ‘Summit’ event organised by the Fabian Society on Support and Wellbeing in Old Age, chaired by Barbara Keeley MP, Shadow Minister for mental health and social care, and attended by Lord Filkin and a range of other influential individuals and organisations.  The focus was on how, if extra money was available, it should be allocated.  

The British Red Cross recently held a breakfast policy meeting, which I attended, on patient flow and the impact that volunteers can have on helping to ensure that hospital admissions and discharges are as smooth as possible for older people, particularly those people who live alone.  

Working with you

I will be attending the BGS Scotland and Northern Ireland meetings in the next few weeks and hope to get to Wales later this year.  I am keen to make sure I support you in any policy engagement and influencing work that fits with our strategic priorities.  Please do get in touch if there are any aspects of this policy update or other policy developments you would like to discuss.