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A shared commitment to integrated care

Jon Rouse
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For integrated care to truly become the norm, everyone must play their part and seek opportunities to do things differently

I was pleased to be involved in last month’s launch of a major piece of work to integrate health, care and support services. Hosted by the Kings Fund, the launch event saw care minister Norman Lamb presenting a | significant ‘shared commitment’ made by 13 national leaders from the health and care system, including the Department of Health.

This commitment consists of a number of initiatives that will help local areas to integrate services for their populations.

In other words, to organise and deliver services that are coordinated and focus on the needs of individuals – those directly using services, their carers and their families. This essentially means a more holistic, person-centred approach to care, rather than the disjointed one that we currently see more often than is acceptable. One that leaves people having to tell the story to different care professionals several times and at risk of falling through the gaps if they need different services, for instance if they move back home and need community support after a spell in hospital.

For any big programme of work to have a chance of succeeding, it needs clear objectives.

National Voices, the national coalition of health and care charities, has played a key role in establishing just that by developing a ‘narrative’ on integration. This provides an agreed definition of what we mean by ‘integrated’ care, and an essential guide to the sort of things that integrated care will achieve, such as better planning, more personal involvement of the person using services, and free access to good information. It provides some clarity over what local areas should be aiming to achieve practically, and we are asking them to use it in their efforts to integrate services.

Also published last month, alongside the integrated care narrative, was a document – Integrated care and support: our shared commitment. It discusses the aim to make integrated health and care the norm in the next five years; how local areas can use existing structures like Health and Wellbeing Boards to bring local bodies together (from local authorities to housing services); and how there will be measures in place by the end of this year to understand people’s experience of integrated care. However it also sets out an ambitious pioneer programme for local areas who have the most groundbreaking ideas or who are doing the most innovative work to integrate services.

The work needed in local areas is not limited to whoever is selected as one of this year’s cohort of pioneers

The first cohort of pioneer areas will be announced later this year, and will receive support from the national partners to realise their ambitions and to share their learnings across the health and care system. You can read more about how to get involved in this pioneer programme on the gov.uk website. However, and critically, the work needed in local areas is not limited to whoever is selected as one of this year’s cohort of pioneers. We’re encouraging all local areas to do more: to engage with local people to hear their experiences, to identify solutions to better coordinate care locally, to adopt and measure progress against the definition of integrated care set out in the new narrative.

For integrated care to truly become the norm, everyone must recognise their part. This is not a time for retreating into familiar silos, but for seeking opportunities for doing things differently.

Jon Rouse, director of social care, local government and care partnerships, Department of Health

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