Valvira improves systematic guidance for social and health sector

4.1.2010 13.44
News item N5-53743
Two reforms to the supervision work of Finland's social and health sector took effect from the start of this year. The state provincial offices became regional state administrative agencies, and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) expanded its tasks to cover supervisory and guidance work for the social sector. Changes in working procedure have also been introduced to facilitate the reforms.
"We need to move from retrospective supervision to systematic guidance. Current ways of doing things are pretty much the work of putting out fires. We tackle the defects we notice, but guidance needs to be further developed", says Marja-Liisa Partanen, Valvira's new Director General.

"Social and health care supervision in the field will still be primarily done by the provinces' regional administrative agencies", says Partanen.

"The regional state administrative agencies also receive and handle most complaints relating to social and health care. It's the job of Valvira to guide the agencies and to standardize licence administration and supervision nationally."

One of the guidance instruments is the use of national supervisory plans. There has already been systematic monitoring and supervision concerning alcohol issues and health care. In the latter follow-up has been carried out through such things as the health care guarantee, which sets timeframes for receiving attention and treatment.

Such methodical follow-up is now to be applied to social care. Collaboration between Valvira and the provinces has resulted in a supervision plan for round-the-clock treatment and care services for older people. This includes charting risk factors and prioritising the key areas of supervision. Services started to be supervised according to the plan from the beginning of the year.

Other national supervisory plans for round-the-clock services are being drawn up this year. This is in line with the Development Programme for Social and Health Care, one of the aims of which is to assure the quality and efficiency of services and to reduce regional discrepancies and disparities. The aim overall is to create an integrated national supervisory programme for social and health care.

Division of labour

"Legislation depicts the basis for the division of duties between Valvira and the regional administrative agencies, but ultimately the division of labour will be shaped by practice. The regional state administrative agencies are only just starting their work and Valvira too is a fairly new authority", Partanen explains.

"The division of duties is being arranged by target agreements that the MSAH concludes with Valvira and the regional state administrative agencies. Valvira will deal with the whole country or several tasks concerning the agencies and with principle decisions, for instance in matters where the interpretation of the law is unclear and there are no prior decisions."

Until now Valvira has been concerned with the supervision of the work of health care professionals who work in social care units, but not with the supervision of the units themselves. From now on Valvira will do both.

Valvira already deals with health care licences on a nationwide basis, while the regional state administrative agencies deal with them when such work takes place in one of their individual areas.

Smooth operation

A part of the duties concerning social care will be transferred to Valvira. Though this will not result in the creation of new departmental units, since the beginning the year a new multiprofessional unit for Valvira started operations in Rovanniemi, in the north of Finland. This will handle most social care supervisory matters. On the other hand, the regional state administrative agencies' work on social care will be steered from Valvira's Helsinki office. Altogether, the Authority has just under 200 employees.

Valvira was formed at the start of 2009 by a merger of the National product Control Agency for Welfare and Health and the National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs. This centralization of supervisory and licensing matters was in line with other administrative reforms to the social and health care system.

Marja-Liisa Partanen says that the change makes administrative work smoother. It is also easier for matters concerning citizens to be dealt with when they can get information from a single source.

"Valvira's task is to guarantee the quality of services and the legal protection of people who need services. The larger operational unit provides a more methodical control over matters, making it easier to respond better to the challenges."

Merja Moilanen
Translated Mark Waller