A leading think tank has called for a Citizens Assembly-style inquiry into the future of the health and social care sector in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a new report out today (13 July), the RSA calls on the government to establish a ‘People’s Commission on Health and Social Care’, which could examine the entire health care system, including NHS trusts, care homes and local authorities.
According to the RSA, the commission should be comprised of randomly selected members of the public, along with policy experts.
And the commission should be given the power to question experts from across the health and social care system in England, Whitehall and councils, and highlight how they can better work together.
The RSA report follows an outcry among health care organisations last week, after the prime minister claimed ‘too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures’ during the pandemic.
It report also contains details of a survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted by Opinium, which showed the crisis unlocked more ‘people power’ in the health system.
A quarter (26%) of respondents said they had helped to support their local community during the pandemic.
The survey also found that the crisis has not spurred a significant shift to digital services in the NHS – but the appetite is there.
One in four of those aged 18-34 have accessed online GP services (including video consultations) during the pandemic, compared to just 6% of those aged 55-plus.
Likewise, face-to-face consultations remain the preferred option for accessing GP services compared to online appointments or phone calls for all age groups, but this comprises just 35% of 18-34 year-olds compared to 59% of over-55s.
However, the appetite for digital is there as 72% of respondents agree or strongly agree that video/online appointments should be expanded in a future NHS.
‘As the whole of government looks to develop ‘new institutions’ as part of Number 10’s recovery strategy, it must include deliberative democracy methods like Citizens’ Assemblies to give power back to ordinary people,’ said report co-author, Hannah Webster.
‘Collectively, we have all made sacrifices over the past few months and we must have a say in how the future of health and care is funded and run.
‘Despite much talk of integration over the years, health and social care remain separate systems that interact poorly, while digital opportunities are still an add-on rather than core to service delivery,’ she added.
‘This health epidemic requires bold new thinking to prepare for the future and provide access to the very best health and care for all. By putting citizens in control, such as through a People’s Health and Care Commission, with a Citizens’ Assembly at its heart, we can finally break through the health and care deadlock which has confounded political leaders for a generation and more.’
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