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'Adapt or die', Middleton tells support workers

The CSP's 13th annual assistants conference took place in Birmingham last month. Seventy-five support workers gathered to hear speakers and take part in workshops.

Lord Darzi’s review of the NHS in England will create new opportunities for people working in physiotherapy as long as they are willing to change to make the most of them, the conference heard.

Karen Middleton, AHP chief health professions officer at the Department of Health, (pictured right) told delegates her main message was ‘adapt or die’ because otherwise ‘your services will not be commissioned’.

She said that the health service had been on a journey since the present government came to power in 1997.

In the first stage, she said, the NHS Plan had poured more resources into the health service, and in the second stage there had been a wave of technical reforms, such as patient choice and payment by results.

But now, with the publication of the final report of Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review of the NHS, the focus was on quality, the world class commissioning agenda of not just ‘adding years to life but life to years’, and on breaking down old barriers between health and social care.

Ms Middleton argued this should create new opportunities in new services, such as those being commissioned under the Fit for Work programme or for patients with long-term conditions, who will increasingly have their own care plans and budgets.

To seize them, however, she told her audience they would need to work more flexibly in teams built around competencies rather than job titles, and that they would need to find evidence for commissioners of what they had to offer.

‘The spotlight is moving from acute services and it is falling on AHP services,’ she said. ‘That is great, because it will bring lots of possibilities. But it also brings accountability.’

Gary Robjent, CSP head of public affairs and policy development, said Lord Darzi’s 10-year vision was all about giving more control to patients and helping them to live with their conditions, instead of just delivering medical treatment to them.

However, he also emphasised that to benefit, physiotherapy would need to change.

‘Ms Middleton talks about lots of this being done by people in bands 2,3 and 4 – and that means support workers,’ he said.

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