2015 has started as a year when there is a great deal of focus on both health and social care. The headlines are all about the A&E crisis, but the real challenge is about how to secure high quality care for people with long-term conditions, comorbidities and dementia.
In responding to this challenge, we have to be mindful of maintaining the autonomy and dignity of the individual, whilst helping them to live well with their various conditions. There is also the need, in a system that is increasingly challenged financially, to develop a clear, evidence-based approach to what works.
As a health and social care sector, we need to know what interventions deliver the best possible outcomes that ensure peoples’ lives are of the highest possible quality. I sometimes think that social care particularly is an evidence-free zone. In some areas of care, practice and policy seem to be driven by ideology and prejudice, rather than by evidence.
This is certainly not due to a lack of evidence. Rather, I think it stems from the inability of some social care providers to interpret the evidence, and the inability of academics to make it clear and simple and present it in ways that will enable people to use it as the basis of their practice.
In an increasingly competitive financial environment, we have to deliver both high quality care, and prove and justify our work by giving people a clear evidence base, and showing that what we do makes a difference.
I believe that one of the reasons why social care is reluctant to use evidence is that, all too often, evidence is based on academic study, rather than on practice, and is not very well connected to the realities of delivering care. However, there are excellent examples of research that is rooted in good academic rigour, as well as the realities of service delivery.
I am so impressed by the work of the DSDC because they really do deliver robust research that is based on practice. In all their eight domains, they look at what enables people living with dementia to have a high quality life, and to maintain their identity and dignity.
The work of the DSDC is not confined to the UK, it reaches across the world; both as an exemplar of good practice, but also as a catalyst for innovation and development.
I was recently lucky enough to be present at one of the DSDC Ideas Labs and was so taken by the creativity and commitment shown by people who were using their experience as carers, academics and professionals to think differently about what would enhance the life of a person living with dementia. Whatever the idea, whether it was small and simple, or large and complex, there was a real desire to deliver the evidence base that would prove to the world that this initiative was making a difference.
I was also struck by the diversity of people who attended the Ideas Lab and it gave me a really clear idea of how inclusive the work of DSDC is.
2015 started as a year when there was much debate in the media and by politicians about the challenges and problems of delivering high quality social care. How different it was at the DSDC, where 2015 began like the previous 25 years had begun, by looking for the solutions, rather than focusing on the problems.
Professor Martin Green OBE