Monthly column for providers and professionals working in adult social care from Debbie Westhead, Interim Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care.

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Debbie Westhead, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care

This is my first column of 2019 and first ever as interim Chief Inspector — it feels a bit late to say Happy New Year so I’ll say welcome and thank you for taking the time to read this.

January can sometimes feel like a bleak month after the cheer of the festive season, so I want to start this message with a request to take the time to check in on those around you when you can. I know how busy everyone is, but it’s so important to touch base with people who might need a kind word or a friendly face — especially those who are older or vulnerable.

My first month as interim Chief Inspector has been a whirlwind — fast paced and hectic at times, but also enjoyable and rewarding. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me and I cannot say thank you enough to all of the people who have wished me luck and sent well wishes since the news was announced that I would be taking on the interim chief inspector position — I really am touched. I have worked in adult social care since I was seventeen years old and know how hard we have all worked as a sector to get to where we are now; but there is still so far to go.

Last week it was announced that Kate Terroni will be taking the helm as permanent Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care in May. Kate is currently Director of Adult Social Care at Oxfordshire County Council and a registered social worker, as well as being co-chair of the ADASS workforce network. Kate has a vast wealth of experience across the sector and we are all looking forward to working with Kate at CQC come May.

I could not write a column this month without mentioning the NHS Long Term Plan and the impact it hopes to have on health and social care over the next decade. The plan outlines how the government’s recent investment in the NHS will improve outcomes for all major conditions, increase the NHS workforce and bring the NHS into the digital age — to name but a few of its focuses.

The main focus for social care lies in supporting ageing and increasing independence — supporting people to ‘age well’ by bringing together health and care teams so that older people get the support they need to remain independent for as long as comfortably possible. While integration of health and social care is by far one of the most important factors we need to focus on in the next decade, many have seen the NHS Long Term Plan as a missed opportunity to mention the long anticipated Green Paper for adult social care. I really hope we see something soon and can start planning for a more integrated and successful future in the sector.

In a period of huge uncertainty — for the country and the sector — we have to work together as hard as we can to carry on providing safe and effective care to those who need it the most. Until next time, please be careful in the cold weather forecast and check in on friends, neighbours and colleagues — one kind word or phone call can make a world of difference to someone who is feeling lonely, whether they are physically alone or not.

I hope you’ll join me again in February for more updates as I navigate the Chief Inspector role!

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