Integrated care has the potential to improve health outcomes

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In a comprehensive review of integrated care developments in the English NHS, the Health and Social Care Committee of the House of Commons has rejected claims that these developments will lead to further privatisation of care.

Members of the committee were much more convinced by the evidence of NHS witnesses who are leading work on integrated care than arguments advanced by critics of the proposed accountable care organisation contract. Their convictions were strengthened by seeing at first hand examples of how integrated care is developing on a visit to South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.

Evidence gathered during the committee’s inquiry, on which we served as advisers, convinced MPs from across the political spectrum that the direction set by sustainability and transformation partnerships and integrated care systems is the right one, even though some had doubts at the outset.

While supporting work across the NHS to develop integrated care, the committee calls on NHS England and national bodies to develop a much clearer narrative explaining what integrated care is and why it matters to patients and service users.

The absence of such a narrative has contributed to widespread misunderstanding in many quarters, reinforced by the use of language drawn from the United States.

The recent shift of terminology from accountable care to integrated care shows that this message has been heard and the priority now should be to communicate in plain English why this policy is being pursued.

Following a difficult birth, not helped by the lack of transparency associated with their development, the challenge faced by STPs and the ICSs is to build more effective partnerships both within the NHS and between the NHS, local government and the third sector, and to demonstrate that their aim is to improve health and care.

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