Making integrated care a reality

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We spoke to Nicola Walsh, Programme Lead for our integrated care programme and Assistant Director of Leadership Development at The King's Fund, about why the Fund has highlighted better integrated care as a top priority for health leaders, and how we are helping to make it happen on the ground.

Nicola, why does The King's Fund think that integrated care is a priority?

We've been instrumental in making the case for integrated care. Our argument is that current fragmented services fail to meet the needs of the population and that greater integration could improve patient experience and the outcomes and efficiency of care. There are also important demographic and socio-economic challenges to be faced as well as unprecedented financial and service pressures, reinforcing the need for organisations and services to work together.

What do you think are the most important issues for health care leaders to consider if they wish to make integrated care a reality?

Critically, health and social care leaders will need to work with each other and other local public service leaders. They will need to identify a common cause and be prepared to share their knowledge in pursuit of the greater good of the population they serve. System leaders will have an important role in creating and nurturing an environment in which team leaders and middle managers can act more collaboratively. Leaders also need to be involved in a shared narrative for staff and other stakeholder groups.

How can The King’s Fund support health care leaders to achieve integrated care?

We have recently launched a range of initiatives to support health care leaders. This includes a programme on the leadership challenges of delivering high-quality care for frail older people. On our Whole Systems programme participants work on the actual issues they are facing, building their awareness and insight into system change across their local health and social care community. We have just launched a programme for chief executives with a focus on building collaborative leadership across a health and social care system and we have a variety of networks for leaders and senior staff from health and social care organisations to support the sharing of information. Additionally, we draw together the latest research and policy directives on integrated care in a monthly e-bulletin.

What else do you think is needed to make change happen?

We need to make it easy for those leading integrated care projects to access outside expertise, creating a hub to support learning and development, and allowing a permissive environment so that they can experiment with designing and delivering radically different models of care.

Find out more about our work on integrated care

This article was originally published in the Summer 2013 edition of Insight