Commenting in response to the Department of Health's announcement today of new pilot schemes trialling the integration of different patient services including health and social care, The King's Fund's Chief Executive, Niall Dickson, said:
'Bringing different services together in this way offers great potential for improving the quality of care patients receive. Too often boundaries between health and social care prevent people getting the care they need. Patients have to find their way around a complex system of doctors, community health workers and social care services when they should be able to talk to a single person about all their care needs. Some patients can end up blocking hospital beds when what's best for them would be more support at home. And poor co-ordination between health services in the community and hospitals can mean unnecessary admissions and poor aftercare.
'As more people live with long-term conditions, the challenges posed by chronic disease management and care planning will require services that are able to respond to the range of needs each patient has. Having a clear single point of contact for all services and ensuring better joint working between local health services and local councils should help people manage their conditions more effectively and receive more personal and convenient care.
'The major challenge will be getting different health professionals – generalists and specialists, social care workers, community and hospital-based staff – to work more closely together. New and better types of care cannot be delivered simply by housing different professionals under one roof or merging multiple organisations. It requires bringing teams together, integrating the way staff work and creating new relationships between organisations.
'It is also important that we do not create new monopoly organisations around the NHS that deny patients choice – we need services that are responsive and understand that either patients or commissioners may decide to go elsewhere.
'It's also important to recognise that there is unlikely to be one model that will work everywhere. That is why these pilots are to be welcomed but it is also why they will need to be thoroughly evaluated. The government has a habit of setting up pilots and then rolling out before lessons are learnt – that must not happen this time. This is a chance to learn genuine lessons about the best way to organise services.'
Notes to editors:
- For further information or interviews, please contact The King’s Fund press and public affairs office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
- The King’s Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help to shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.