Heard the one about this private contractor making billions out of the NHS for computer services that don’t work? It’s a familiar tale of woe. Why, we even had our exam system for youngsters hauled over the carpet a few weeks ago. And then there’s the ongoing debate about funding for the Olympics and athletes and medal counts. On Monday September 8, I am attending the opening of a remarkable new care facility, a 72-bed care home providing general care and specialist dementia care. Nothing special about that, I know, but when you add to the mix rooms fitted out luxury hotel style with plasma TVs, a specialist gymnasium for elderly people, a cinema and wine served with dinner, then you see how these kinds of facilities have changed since I was buying care home beds for an LA around 15 years ago. And this is exactly how it should be. Care should not be seen as a second rate resource where people have to compromise. Private providers of residential/nursing care for all users, children and adults, should strive for excellence along with maximising profit. (I’m sure care home providers would come up with many different definitions of the meaning of ‘striving for excellence’).
The way I see it, provided the service strives for and reaches excellence, and offers value for money (so the care home above will be taking publicly funded clients as well as private), then there is a place for the private sector in care and publicly funded facilities. The problem is that far too often ‘excellence’ is only a buzzword for a very different reality.
I remember the days when care was in-house and where local authority middle management who ran by ideology rather than business acumen. Maybe, just maybe, in the current world of social services, where MBAs are part of the furniture, there is an argument for bringing it all back home.