Meet the Thames/Coromandel DSL team of needs assessors / service coordinators: (left to right) Kristin Dacre, Jelte Drijfhout, Marilyn Vilicich, and Amy Harrison. (Photo credit: Hauraki Herald/Fairfax Media Ltd)
A move to local assessors/coordinators will put more emphasis on local knowledge and local decisions when people with long-term health conditions are assessed and linked to support services.
Disability Support Link (DSL) manager Graham Guy describes the move as “local presence, local decisions” and says it is about providing a one-stop shop for clients by people who know the local area where the person lives.
DSL is the Waikato DHB service that provides needs assessment for people with disabilities, long-term conditions and older people unable to care for themselves at home without support. Once the needs are assessed, DSL identifies suitable local support services, arranges them, and also reviews if the arrangement is working. This is part of national NASC (Needs Assessment and Service Coordination) funding provided by the Ministry of Health to all district health boards.
Until recently, the needs assessment part of DSL work was contracted by Waikato DHB to independent assessors, and the assessment was then reviewed by a DSL service coordinator based in Hamilton.
After looking at best practice and reviewing activity in other district health boards, DSL is now moving to a model that combines the assessment and the arranging of support, all at a local level and done by DSL team members.
“Developing local area coordinators will make us more efficient and make better use of local knowledge and expertise of in-house staff, which means a less fragmented approach for users,” Graham Guy says.
In Thames the change to “local presence, local decisions” has meant increasing from one-and-a-half to four locally based DSL staff who do all the assessments and reviews for over 65 year old DSL clients in the Thames/Coromandel area.
For team member Amy Harrison, the change has been a physical one too. She was an office-based coordinator in Hamilton but moved with her family to the Coromandel to take up the position as DSL assessor/coordinator based in Whitianga , and now looks after all DSL clients in that area and the top half of the Coromandel.
Graham Guy says it will take 12 to 18 months to fully move to the new model, evaluate how well it works, and decide the next steps. “For a while there will be a mix of contracted assessors in some areas, and in-house local assessors in others.”
Efficiency is a key goal, as the waiting list for assessments has become unacceptably long in recent years. Already that is starting to improve with a 30 per cent reduction in the list over the last three months.
“Staff have done twice as many assessments currently compared to the same time last year. It is a credit to them,” Graham Guy says.
In total eight new staff have been recruited to DSL areas bases covering Thames/Coromandel, Taumarunui/Te Kuiti/Otorohanga, Cambridge and north Hamilton, with others in Matamata/Morrinsville and Te Awamutu.
“We recognised that our ratio of clients to staff was too high and we have definitely improved that, but there may still be further improvement needed in future. Ideally we want the service to be more proactive for our clients.”
The Maori Needs Assessment Process currently used by Waikato DHB is being retained.