Books reviewed by James Woodward

Philosophy of care

Integrating Health and Social Care Services for Older Persons, Jenny Billings and Kai Leichsenring, Ashgate Publishing, 2006, ISBN No. 0 7546 4473 1, pb, 352pp, £35.00

Caring about Health, Stan van Hooft, Ashgate Publishing, 2006, ISBN No. 0 7546 5358 7, hb, 238 pages, £45.00

Integrating Health and Social Care Services for Older Persons, Jenny Billings and Kai LeichsenringIntegrating Health and Social Care Services for Older Persons is a technical book that deserves the time and attention required to digest its’ chapters and findings. The book concludes a piece of research on integrated care for older people in Europe by pulling together a range of perspectives which identify the ways of approaching this type of care provision. The chapters helpfully summarise evidence from nine European countries and demonstrate that there is ongoing progress with social research in Europe, despite the back drop of restricted resources.

The present reviewer has worked in both the health and social care economies with his most experience working with and for older people in housing and care. Along with other professionals, and indeed older people themselves, there is enormous frustration around the inner qualities between the health and social care systems. Often, in the U.K., older people are viewed as a problem (expensive in relation to the provision of health and health care) and demanding (in relation to numbers and needs set against limited social care budgets). This book observes shifts towards more integrated and appropriate models of long term care, necessary for all countries to face the major challenge of the demographic increase in numbers of older people.

The book is undoubtedly a major contribution to the research base of empirical field work in Europe. It would be a key source of factual information about the co-ordination at the inter-face between health and social care. It is particularly valuable in its’ clarity about the problems as well as offering examples of good practice, concerning regulation and co-ordination.

Caring about Health, Stan van HooftCaring About Health is an excellent edition to the Ashgate Studies in Applied Ethics series, written by an academic from Deakin University, Australia. Those academics and professionals who become more focused on practice than theory, should have their horizons and imaginations broadened by this philosophical exploration of the ideas that area central to health care practice. Van Hooft explores such concepts as caring, health, disease, suffering and pain from a phenomenological perspective. The author is concerned about the ethical demands that arise when any of us encounter these issues and questions, and also the kind of education that would help healthcare respond.

The writing is clear, lively and sophisticated. There is a particular good chapter about suffering and the goals of medicine and throughout the text, van Hooft explores with some insight, questions of pain, communication and subjectivity in both theory and practice. This is a text that will help any of its’ readers move beyond loosely held opinions in to a wiser appreciation of the inter-section of theory and practice in care.

James Woodward