A progressive social perspective on healthcare, in which the ability to manage one’s own freedom of choice, and the participation of citizens in need of help are paramount, is having an enormous impact on healthcare institutions, hospitals, and the home-care sector. These organisations need to adapt to working in a more market-oriented and efficient way to deliver customised solutions. They need to cooperate better, and have been given a coaching task to increase their client’s independence by using their social network where possible.
This transformation of healthcare also has major implications from a legal point of view. For example, there appear to be implications in terms of employment law (increasing staff flexibility and wage restraint), tendering procedures, and exchange of privacy-sensitive information. As a result of this shift, our firm, as a multidisciplinary legal team, increasingly plays an advisory and monitoring role in this sector.
The modern conception of care will be further reflected in the amended Social Support Act, which provides for help for the disabled, the elderly, the long-term sick, and people with mental health problems. A consequence of this new law is a large-scale decentralisation of care. No longer the national government, but from 2015 onwards, the municipalities have been made responsible for supporting those in need. This is to avoid bureaucracy and to better align themselves with the needs of the citizen. Smaller-scale and more fragmented funding will create a more complex playing field of various subsidy relationships.
Care projects are already increasingly being put out to tender. This means in practice that, in response to a request for care from a municipality or a local council, various competing parties are invited to come up with a plan of action. The organisation with the ‘best’ plan is then awarded the project. The completion of such a tendering process is subject to all kinds of specific legal regulations, which means that DKVA often acts as an advisor. Our firm has built up a very good reputation in the field of public tenders and procurement procedures from local authorities. In the construction sector, we have also been able to gain experience and expertise in procurement law over a period of decades.
We also understand that a more business-like approach to care requires different competencies on the part of staff. Negotiation skills and pressure to achieve seem to be at odds with the idealistic, non-commercial professionalism that is so common throughout in this sector. In our opinion, such a transition from a ‘soft’ culture of providing care to a private ‘care company’ goes beyond the single dimension of giving legal advice. Over the past few years our reorganisation specialists have proven their ability to combine heart and soul with professionalism in the field of welfare and child care. They are able to pride themselves on pragmatic solutions they delivery which do justice both to the humanity of the healthcare sector, and the requirements of healthy business operations.
In addition, the public tender of care more often leads to a project-based based method involving the temporary deployment of expert personnel. This means that there are more people with short-term employment contracts or even freelancers (self-employed workers without employees) working in the healthcare sector. DKVA looks beyond the employment law consequences of these recent trends to defend the core social values within an organisation, such as participation, cohesion, and team work. After all, the quality of the care provided depends on satisfied employees.