11th September, 2015

A short rant on the audacity of the press; putting the picture right with some examples from Wakefield's Voluntary Sector.

On the train the other day a headline caught my eye "NHS buys patient a Summer House".  I instantly knew what to expect of the article; a monologue lambasting the health service for spending money on luxuries when there is such a squeeze on funding for essential services, emotive talk, aimed to get their audience incensed.  Sure enough this is exactly what the article did, at the same time as giving no context to any of the spending - the iRobot vacuum cleaner probably provided an essential service for someone who otherwise would need a regualar cleaner, the summerhouse may well have helped reduce the ongoing need for renting other space etc.  To add insult to injury, the article was accompanied by stock photographs of beautiful summerhouses on country estates, a young woman riding on a beach and a group of affluent elderly people painting a top model..... implying that this was what the money was paying for.

All of this had apparently been paid for from personal health budgets.... indeed, I have little doubt that the things mentioned have been paid for from personal health budgets, but without the context for each bit of expenditure it's very difficult to know whether the expenditure is a wise one or not since many, many things affect a person's health.  In addition the article makes no mention of the general reception that personal health budgets have had from the NHS  - make no bones about it, this was a government initiative, heavily promoted by government and far from embraced by the health sector (you can read more about it in this King's Fund article).

Put all that aside and lets look at the voluntary sector perspective on all this.  At Nova we have long been advocating that the voluntary and community sector can help the health sector by engaging people in their services.  We know from our members that many of you are helping to keep people healthy and keep them out of traditional health services.  It is widely documented that people who are part of a vibrant community will be healthier and the health sector is increasingly looking to the voluntary sector for local help (though not perhaps as much as we would hope Health and Care Voluntary Sector Survey from Navca).  

Incredible Edible's Standbridge Allotments

 There are a series of Allotments across Wakefield which are run by Incredible Edible.  The plots are much smaller than traditional Allotment plots and allow individuals to give gardening a go.  Though Andy started the group with environmental objectives he now knows that the scheme has at least equal benefit from a health and social perspective.  He has seen friendships blossom across the generations, keen gardeners have been able to pass on their skills and people from different backgrounds come together to learn about gardening and become passionate about their food.  What better way to improve your health!

 Whilst I'm pretty sure that the headline news mentioned above is blown up out of all proportion, I'm also sure that the Voluntary and Community sectors in Wakefield can and should be included when GPs and other healthcare professionals work with individuals on the their personal health budgets.  Surely the whole point of the personal budget is to be person centred - under an assumption that the person knows what will help address the cause of their illness or get them better. 

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