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Plans launched to ‘join-up’ health and social care by 2018

Integration means less people falling ‘through the cracks’

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The government has today unveiled plans for ‘joined-up’ health and community care.

Launched by Care and Support Minister Normal Lamb, the government and key players in the health and care field have pledged to close the gap between the health and social care systems by 2018.

Lamb says he wants to bring an end to multiple assessments, disjointed services and poor information.

Joined-up health and community care is not currently the norm and in a recent study 32% of bereaved people said hospitals did not work well with GPs and other services. People often have to retell their story every time they encounter a new service and fail to get the support they need because different parts of the system do not ‘talk to each other or share appropriate information and notes’.

But Lamb says the new plans should see fewer people falling through the cracks and reduce the number of patients needlessly stuck in hospitals. Delayed discharges currently cost the NHS £370million a year.

In addition, he says it should cut emergency readmissions currently caused by older people being discharged from hospitals to homes not adapted to their needs.

The government’s ‘commitment’ has been backed by health and social care leaders whose signatories include the Local Government Association, Monitor and NHS England, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services as well as the Department of Health.

Key components of the new plan include: making joined-up and coordinated health and care the norm by 2018, with projects in every part of the country by 2015 and new ‘pioneer’ areas around the country, appointed by September 2013; new measures of people’s experience of joined up care and support by the end of 2013 to test if people are starting to feel the benefits of the change.

“People don’t want health care or social care, they just want the best care. This is a vital step in creating a truly joined up system that puts people first...better joined up care and support means a real difference to older people, those with long-term conditions like diabetes and to carers supporting their loved ones,” said Lamb.

He added: “But good coordination could also bring efficiency and financial benefits. A recent study suggests that improved integration could save billions of pounds to the health and social care system over a five year period, if implemented effectively.”

Today’s announcement sees the publication of the first ever system-wide ‘shared commitment’ which includes 10 commitments which every organisation has signed up to deliver, including: outlining how national resources will support local work; promises to ensure tools are available to help; details of how information will be used to enable integration; and plans to accelerate learning across the system.

The document lays out how local areas should use existing structure like Health and Wellbeing Boards to bring together local authorities, the NHS, social care providers, education, housing services, public and health and others to bring about better integration of local services.

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