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Joined-up care 'within five years'

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Joined-up health and social care should become “the norm” in the next five years, the Department of Health and Department for Communities & Local Government have said.

Health reporting HSJ and LGC logo

The pledge came in a joint submission to the communities and local government select committee, in which the departments said they wanted to remove the barriers to integrated care.

Over the next year, it said, they would work with care users and carers to produce a “framework” setting out ways to do this. It said the government aimed to “make evidence-based integrated care and support the norm over the next five years.”

The DH has already started working on legal changes that could allow this to happen. LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal reported last week that the department is working on a new type of contract that aims to encourage joined-up working.

Under the system a “prime contractor” – which could be a charity, an acute trust or a community health service provider – would be able to buy services for a whole group of people over a longer period than is currently allowed.

The DH’s head of provider transition, Bob Ricketts, told HSJ the approach could benefit frail older people or those at the end of life.  

The prime contractor would be responsible for organising and paying other providers, using an agreed outcome-linked payments system. The aim is to remove the legal and financial complexities behind commissioning services from a wide range of organisations.  

Mr Ricketts, who is leading the development of the contract, said: “We want to get across to clinical commissioning groups that you don’t have to do what primary care trusts did - don’t think more of the same, think service transformation.”

The new standard contract and guidance will be published in the new year and the DH hopes this kind of contracting will take place in 2014-15.

Integrating health and social care, alongside joining up physical and mental health services, is seen as a key priority by the care services minister, Norman Lamb (Lib Dem). Mr Lamb has said that he wants to establish a series of “experiments” in joined-up care, and would ensure the department “facilitated” these and tried to remove barriers.   

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