Local authorities in Wales often locate teams of social workers in hospitals to carry out discharge planning for older people who will require ongoing care and support in order to leave hospital. This webinar presents findings from an ethnographic study of one such team. It will set out how the bureaucratic nature of the routine tasks the hospital social workers perform, the pressure from hospital management and local authority senior managers to expedite patient discharges with speed, and the demands of maintaining a working space alongside the hierarchy of hospital professionals create a uniquely challenging environment for social work practice.

Despite these challenges, during the fieldwork it was possible to see the key social work values of human rights, social justice and empowerment enacted through the social workers’ practices, though with some limitations. The webinar will conclude with an argument that the skills and commitment of hospital social workers could be harnessed in an expanded role to help reduce readmissions and support people with long-term health conditions to adjust to their circumstances and develop health-protective ways of living.

Presentation by: Dr Dan Burrows, Cardiff University