THE CEO of the council’s social care provider has called for a non-political overhaul of the UK’s health and social care strategy amid ongoing austerity measures and Brexit uncertainty.

Martin Farrow, the CEO of Optalis, Wokingham Borough Council and Royal Borough for Windsor and Maidenhead’s social care provider, said the sector had experienced “recruitment challenges” and “increasing demand” in recent years.

He told the News: “There is a compelling argument to develop a depoliticised integrated health and social care strategy that spans the next 40 years, based not on political ideology but on what is best for those who need support, and those who provide it, our customers and our colleagues.

Mr Farrow continued: “The definition of quality is bigger than the word suggests. It is as much about regulation as it is about the very first contact, the first phone call or email, the first meeting, the first cup of tea and taking the time to listen, laugh and be there. It requires an unswerving attention to detail and a clear understanding that both customers and colleagues matter, a lot.

“Organisations that create the right culture, based on the right values and offering a supportive environment for staff to be the best they can be for their customers will be the ones who will lead the way in the future.”

In response to this, Wokingham Borough Council executive member for Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing Cllr Richard Dolinski, said: “I believe the solution lies with “cross party” cooperation. Together with the Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors, we have developed a joint Adult Social Care Working Group at Wokingham Borough Council. This group is working together for better social care, health and wellbeing outcomes for our residents.

“Disappointingly, the Wokingham Borough Labour Group has refused to take part in preference to playing politics, despite the support of the Reading East Labour MP for our initiative and the political will to work together from the Labour led Reading Borough Council for a joint Health and Wellbeing Programme. It feels like the local Labour group are seeking votes at the expense of the wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable”.

Labour councillor Andy Croy told the News: “Mr Farrow's thinking is clearly in line with a slew of recent publications which have called for a long term settlement at a national level on the funding of adult social care.

“There is clearly a requirement for such a settlement as this Tory government's policy has been too dump the entire costs of adult social care on local authorities who find themselves restricted in terms of their own fundraising ability and in any case only have council tax - a very regressive tax - and a linked social care precept to fall back on

“This is turn has resulted in the adult social care funding crisis - a crisis caused by the political decisions of the Tory party.

"So yes, a proper, progressive, national funding model is required and it will not be coming from this government.

"Richard Dolinski, on the other other hand , wants to create a smoke screen to shield the Tory party locally from the impact of its policies nationally. His idea of a cross party working group sounds great but it will not magic any extra cash , and that is what is required, more cash.

"In the meantime, by co-opting the opposition into his scheme he hopes to make us complicit in whatever cuts will be coming down the tracks - and this Labour group will not be part of that.

"The Lib Dems may be happy to get into bed with the Tories - they have form both locally and nationally - but we are not."

Mr Farrow also spoke about the possible impact of Brexit on the social care sector, adding that although there had not yet been any significant consequences from the UK’s decision to leave the EU, its impact “cannot be underestimated” due to the potential future demands Brexit might create.

Mr Farrow was speaking after the Care Quality Commission published its ‘State of Care Report’ for care in England.

The report stated that most people in England have access to good quality of care, but this quality is not consistent and “access to good care increasingly depends on where in the country you live and the type of support you need.”

It continued: “Some people can easily access good care. Others cannot access the services they need, they experience disjointed care, or only have access to providers with poor services. People’s experiences are often determined by how well different parts of local systems work together.”

Mr Farrow commented on the report, adding: “As a care operator across Berkshire and Oxfordshire, we at Optalis are proud to be operating in a sector that is showing resilience in the face of the dual challenges of increasing demands and austerity.

“The report identified the challenges of “disjointed care”, highlighting partnership working as an area of focus, and rightly so.

“The work done by the Wokingham Integrated Partnership to develop integrated Adult Health and Social Care services locally is a good example of how collaboration between GPs, hospitals, the voluntary sector and Healthwatch can best serve local communities.

“Locally, this also extends to the services Optalis delivers to support people to return home from hospital with their journey back to independence.

“Our work with Involve, who represent Wokingham’s Voluntary and Community sector is, and will continue to be, vital in how we enable communities to work together to access support and support networks for local residents.”

Cllr Richard Dolinski, Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing, commented: “Our local integration plan is based upon effectively developing and embedding partnerships between Health and Social Care Services inclusive of Optalis. This work has proven to be invaluable, none more so than in improving the health of our community but also their wellbeing”.