Published by Alexander Hitchcock on 7 April 2016
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Reform publishes “Coordinated health and social care” conference brochure, with articles by Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, Anna Bradley, Dr Mark Britnell, Ciarán Devane, Toby Lambert, Jan Ledward, Dr Martin McShane, Steve Melton, Claire Murdoch, Jeremy Taylor and Dr Andrew Webster.
The integration of services is now one of the most important objectives in health policy. In 2013, the Government announced a £3.8 billion Better Care Fund and launched a series of “integration pioneers” as part of its drive to achieve “integration everywhere”. Yet despite the growing commitment to integrated care at a national level there remain profound barriers to providing truly patient centred and coordinated care across the health and care system. This conference brought together 200 health leaders and opinion makers in a timely debate on the enablers to achieve integration at pace and scale.
The conference highlighted the enormous challenge the NHS faces with public finances under unprecedented pressure and demand for health and social care services continuing to rise. While all three major parties agree that coordinating care could put health and social care services on to a more sustainable footing, patients are still being left with fragmented and unresponsive care. Maintaining the status quo is therefore not an option. In the words of Stephen Dorrell, it would “protect the powerful” rather than improve life chances for people already “at the back of the queue”. Inaction is also not an option. As Norman Lamb said in his keynote speech, “[t]he consequences of doing nothing would be disastrous: the NHS would crash”. Yet while the stakes for delivering coordinated care are high, the Minister emphasised that so too are the rewards.
It became clear during the conference that enabling integration at every level requires the patient to be informed, engaged and empowered. As Mark Britnell said in his presentation, “integration without patient power isn’t integration, it’s just bureaucracy”. While pooled budgets offer much promise, their budgetary scope must become more ambitious to achieve real economies of scale. We heard many examples of commissioners and providers, both in the UK and abroad, innovating to join up care around the outcomes that matter to patients. Scaling up these pockets of excellence cannot be achieved without whole system learning. As Norman Lamb wrote for the conference brochure, the system needs to “unleash the power of innovation and reform that too often gets frustrated by a risk averse culture”. Articulating and harnessing this shared vision of a health and social care system that delivers value for the patient and taxpayer will be vital to deliver truly integrated care.
The conference was kindly sponsored by: