Health and social care integration about leadership as well as tech, say local government and NHS bodies

Written by Rebecca Hill on 15 June 2016 in News

Local and national leaders need to establish long-term investment plans for the integration of health and social care systems and take joint responsibility for “difficult decisions”, a report has said.

Councils have been challenged to integrate complex health and social care systems - Photo credit: Flickr, Benny Mazur

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Local Government Association, the NHS Clinical Commissioners and NHS Confederation have published a joint mission statement on the integration of health and social care systems.

In it, the organisations set out their vision for integrated care focuses on place, with the idea being to direct all resources in a locality – not just health and care resources - to improving wellbeing.

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The report emphasises the important role for national and local leaders, which should include taking joint responsibility for priorities, risk and decisions. There should also be shared commitments set out from the start, the report said.

In addition to these changes and responsibilities, the report sets out the requirements for information systems in driving forward the change.

In order for shared systems to work effectively, the report said that local systems must make the best use of digital technologies to allow information and technology to be shared between all relevant agencies and individuals.

This means there must be a common basis for sharing and planning, as well as shared care records, on an individual and population-wide basis. There should also be a shared system to assess risk to identify those most in need of help.

Local and national governments must also ensure they assess transformation of the system regularly with ongoing monitoring, the report said.

In addition, service arrangements should empower people through technology, and require them to “tell their story only once”.

The report also recommended a long-term payment and commissioning model across all budgets, that focuses on wellbeing-related outcomes and investing in changing skills and behaviour to establish a person-centred care system.

The report comes at a time of diminishing budgets, and the bodies say that national leaders need to acknowledge that “the unprecedented pressure on funding remains one of the greatest risks to success”. It added that “integration is not an answer in itself, or a panacea for the system’s financial challenges”.

Effective integration would do more than save money, the report said. It would also speed up the deregulation of regulation and performance management of local services, drive investment in capacity building and workforce training and establish simpler data-sharing rules at all levels.

For local systems, it would create a collective leadership and provide local authorities with more freedom to generate and use resources as necessary, while it would improve physical, mental, emotional and economic health of the public, as well as increasing patient choice and confidence. 

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