Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission

The beginning of a New Year is always a curious mix — the optimism and fun of sparkling firework displays contrast sharply with winter storms wreaking havoc; or the celebration of public service in the New Year’s Honours List set against grim headlines of problems ‎in our health and care system.

This year that difference has ‎been even more acute for me — I spent much of the festive season worrying about my parent’s health but then I was honoured with the award of a CBE for services to adult social care. It has been a humbling experience. I have been overwhelmed by the incredibly kind and lovely response from so many people. The award is not just for me, but for my team and everyone at CQC who work so hard to improve the quality of life of people using adult social care services, their families and carers.

I would like to congratulate and pay tribute to others on the Honours List who have deservedly been recognised for their significant contributions including Ray James, Executive Director of Health, Housing & Adult Social Care at the London Borough of Enfield and former President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services who is now on secondment as the National Director of Learning Disability at NHS England; Dave Hill, Executive Director of Social Care and Education at Essex County Council and former President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services; Pauline Shaw, Director of Care and Service Development at The Royal Star & Garter Homes; Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive of Silverline; and Scott Watkin, Eye Care and Vision Development Officer at SeeAbility.

Our year ahead will be lit up by a visit to the Palace but what might 2018 bring for adult social care?

The problems highlighted in our State of Care report are still here at the start of the New Year — lots of good care but variable quality, strained resources and staff shortages; a system at full stretch. 2018 brings opportunities for change — we are due the Government response to the Competition and Markets Authority care homes market study; CQC will conclude our local system reviews and publish the final report in summer (see the interim report); and we have the green paper on care and support for older people and the parallel programme of work on working age social care.

There are lots of suggestions for how these opportunities could be best exploited. In The Guardian, Sharon Allen, Chief Executive of Skills for Care urged a focus on the workforce. Also writing in The Guardian, Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum offers a vision for the future focused on people, innovation, workforce and technology. Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group suggests that 2018 could be the year we do social care differently by challenging the status quo. In yet another Guardian article, Paul Burstow, Chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence wants to challenge the orthodoxy that “care is a deadweight cost”. On the SCIE website, Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow for Social Care at The King’s Fund urges a concerted effort to spread good practice and Sam Clark recommends “think big, start small, get it right and grow.”

All thoughtful contributions which I hope will help inform the debate about the future of adult social care.

So, what are my suggestions for 2018 for adult social care?

1. First, focus on the people who use services including older people, people living with dementia or have a physical disability, learning disability or mental health problem as well as their families and carers. Listen to their stories, understand their experiences, find out what matters to them and then develop policies and organise, commission or ‎provide services that meet their needs and aspirations.

2. Focus just as hard on the people who provide those services — adult social care staff have a vital, skilled role and we need to recognise the impact they have; value their contribution; and share and celebrate the great care they provide.

3. My third suggestion has already had a boost with Jeremy Hunt reappointed with the extended title of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Of course the department over which he presides already has the policy responsibility for social care but making this explicit in his title is welcome. Tackling the problems faced by health and social care can only be resolved by a whole system response and that means adult social care, both commissioners and providers, being involved as equal partners, respected and properly appreciated for their critical role.

4. Let’s also tap into the amazing imagination and creativity‎ that abounds in adult social care. As Henry Ford said:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Be it new technology, embracing the arts, changing the environment or working in a different way — being open to innovation and new ideas has got to be part of the way forward.

5. Quality Matters to us all and it is everyone’s responsibility to make it a reality. Relying on regulation and inspection alone won’t deliver consistent, high quality services across the country. Everyone (commissioners, funders, providers and staff) has their part to play. This isn’t new from me but remains as important as ever in the year ahead.

I am sure that my trip to the Palace will be very special, especially if my Mum and Dad are well enough to join me. What would make 2018 truly special though is if we really start turning these opportunities into positive action that make a genuine difference for people using services, their families and carers.

Happy New Year!

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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