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Understanding Health and Social Care

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Title: Understanding Health and Social Care

Author: Jon Glasby

Publisher: Policy Press

Reviewer: Alison Taylor, paediatric practice development nurse, Western Sussex Hospitals Trust

What was it like?

This timely and thorough book provides an excellent introduction to the labyrinthine organisation of health and social care in the UK. Focusing on adult community care, author Jon Glasby provides an intelligent analysis, full of honest insights into the realities of 21st century service provision.


What were the highlights? 

This eloquently written book could not have been better timed. We are living in politically turbulent times as the new coalition government continues to change the face of health and social care at speed. The reader is guided through a highly complex and bureaucratic system, of which many aspects are dissected in detail.

Strengths & weaknesses:

An excellent introduction sets out background and rationale, and clear aims are stated. The text is extremely well researched and follows a set structure, making it easy to dip in and out of. The reflection exercises and website suggestions at the end of each chapter are particularly varied and thoughtful. Throughout, boxes and tables with key information are clearly cross referenced in the text so they are easy to find.

A potted history of healthcare and the welfare state is followed by a summary of recent and current changes, driven by New Labour right up to the current coalition government. A chapter on partnership working compares the philosophy, approach, organisational culture, and integration (or lack of) between the two types of services. The author emphasises a collaborative approach and does not shy away from the conflict that occurs in reality over the boundary between health and social services.

All major laws, bills, government reports and policies related to the subject matter are cited, including those, which never saw the light of day. Modern branding concepts such as the Big Society are highlighted, making it feel like this book has its finger firmly on the political pulse. Not only are plenty of UK examples given to illustrate a point, international comparisons are made on many of them, which should give the reader a much more rounded understanding of complex issues.

Disability and social inclusion get their own chapters. Powerful stories are well used to illustrate real life experiences and how services don’t get it right a lot of the time. User involvement is discussed, regarding its growing influence over service provision as people have moved from passive service recipients to active service users. The chapter on support for carers reminds the reader of society’s reliance on this huge unpaid workforce.

The only weakness I can find is that rapid political change will render some of the content out of date quite quickly. 

Who should read it?

The book is intended for anyone studying or working in health and social care. If you would like a deeper understanding of the British health and welfare system, you would do well to start with this. The reflection exercises provide good ideas for teachers and lecturers as well.

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