The desire to see delivery of integrated heathcare and social care services is broadly shared by health professionals, government bodies and special interest groups.
Nevertheless, in England, successful delivery to date can only be traced to local initiatives that focus on specific areas of care or patient groups. These successes are driven by joint working between local authorities and health trusts, plus third sector organisations, and are to be commended, not least, because they have generally been achieved despite national funding mechanisms working against them rather than for them.
The better care fund of £3.8bn was enhanced by additional voluntary contributions, bringing the fund up to £5.3bn, and has helped to support a number of local initiatives. Now, The King’s Fund report, Options For Integrated Commissioning, has added further weight to the argument for a single pooled budget in every local area by 2020. The paper recommends ceding control of the national budget for social care to the Department of Health. The think tank examines the financial viability of the healthcare system and determines that health and wellbeing boards are not fit for this role in their current form. The report suggests a single outcomes framework for an integrated system and legislation to enable health and wellbeing boards to take over health and social care commissioning.
As a supplier of technology and services that support integrated healthcare and social care services, we welcome all funding initiatives that underpin closer working between care providers focussed on patient-centric service delivery. Northern Ireland took the more direct approach by bringing together services into five regional health and social care trusts, the three largest of which are now using a common Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system to support fully integrated community services. The provision of shared access to patient/client data and the implementation of common working processes is essential to upholding one of the guiding principles of the e-health and care strategy being implemented by Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland, to make information available in the right place at the right time to support the best care.
Recognition of the fact that siloed funding streams are an encumbrance to integrated care services needs to translate into actions that bring these streams together. Northern Ireland has adopted one clear approach, The King’s Fund recommends another. Without wishing to dismiss the scale of the challenge, the sooner the rhetoric and debate translates into a workable policy in England, the better for all.
David Roots, executive director of health and social care, Civica
Column sponsored and supplied by Civica