A special Wales edition of the Journal of Integrated care – so what?!!!

How can we better integrate health and social care? Stewart Greenwell of ADSS (Association of Directors of Social Services) Cymru shares the lessons from the Wales edition of the Journal of Integrated care.

Stewart GreenwellI guess that writing about what you do is common practice in most professional arena, but normally it is for a very limited audience – the employer, sometimes even service users so that they can see what a professional worker is explaining what they saw, what they did and what they intend to do. Writing for an academic journal is a different piece of work – the audience is wider, the rules feel more complex and the writing comes under more scrutiny.

I have always experienced writing as a way of reflecting on what I have done and the special edition of the Journal of Integrated Care focusing specifically on Wales, hopefully will bring some of our efforts in Wales into a wider public arena, from which others, but particularly policy makers and practitioners in Wales, can benefit.

I have always experienced collaboration and/or integration as the natural way of building alliances to ensure that people are not ‘given the run-around’. Sadly my experience is that the public sector has provided that experience for ordinary people, leaving them with the energy-sapping task of finding their way around systems, places and people to try to find a response to a set of circumstances that is troubling them. So by simply reducing the number of doors to knock, telephone numbers to ring and people to talk to, the path becomes less hazardous, less tiring and more likely to lead to success for the ordinary person.

That becomes the rationale for collaboration and integration – to improve people’s lives and only that end makes it worthwhile.

The people who have contributed to the Wales edition had very little experience of writing for the purposes of publication. They had all written for their own agencies, arguing for a change in practice, arguing for an allocation of some additional resources and the many other reasons that we have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for our employers.

It has been a struggle, everything took longer than anticipated and there was always another reference to call on. In many ways it reflects the struggle that is captured by many of the authors, to hold on to a belief that what they were pursuing was worth all the effort, to resist the feeling that ‘I don’t really have anything to say that people want to listen to’.

Their efforts, actually our efforts, since it started with us all talking about the idea in a room in a church centre in Shrewsbury – a good start since it reminded us that you sometimes have to break the rules to achieve something – (in this instance choosing to meet outside of Wales!!) were worth it.

The articles highlight the theme of the WAO events on 14th and 22nd October, that integration and collaboration are less about science and more about craft and graft, continually pushing at the boundaries of traditional thinking and reminding ourselves that there is never a reason not to ‘do the right thing’, but there are often many reasons to simply continue to ‘do things right’. The former is about people and the latter often about little more than adhering to process.

However the process was energising and in the end, successful. It shows the character and
strength of the best practice, the importance of leadership that is unrelentingly determined and the most critical of all, that a focus on what makes a difference to people’s lives pulls you through and beyond the doubters and the resistors!!

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