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NHS to be fully integrated with social care ‘by 2018’

The health and social care system in England will be fully joined together by 2018, with CCGs urged to put aside 2% of their funding each year to encourage more integrated care, the Goverment has pledged.

The bold plans aim to prevent patients ‘falling through the cracks’, with new ‘pioneer’ areas around the country - to be announced in September - to trial more integrated care for patients with local providers, including GPs.

The national ‘shared commitment’ to integrating care, will be unveiled by health and care minister Norman Lamb today, with ten ways that each NHS organisation will work towards joining up their services with other local services.

The plans come despite an official evaluation of 16 Department of Health pilots looking at more integrated care published last year concluding they had a broadly negative effect on patient satisfaction and did not deliver any tangible cost savings.

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

The plans aim to ensure patients do not have to re-tell their history every time they encounter a new service, and will improve communication between services, health and care workers making home visits at different times, unnecessary A&E admissions and delayed discharges from hospitals.

The DH added that it wants CCGs to consider setting aside 2% of their funds for ‘non-recurrent expenditure’ on integrating services. The statement said: ‘We encourage [CCGs] to consider using this to support innovative approaches to integrated care and support.’

In announcing the policy, Mr Lamb commented: ‘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.’

‘Unless we change the way we work, the NHS and care system is heading for a crisis. This national commitment to working together is an important moment in ensuring we have a system which is fit for the future.’

The DH said it was inviting expressions of interest for pioneer sites to be submitted by the end of June, with the sites to be confirmed in September. The pioneers will be ‘helped’ by a central Integrated Care and Support Exchange (ICASE) team which is being put in place and ‘in return’ they are expected to share their experiences with the rest of the country, said the DH.

But health thinktank the Nuffield Trust warned that many plans to better integrate care in the NHS had fallen by the wayside.

Nuffield Trust executive Dr Jennifer Dixon said: ‘There have been attempts develop integrated care for at least 20 years, but with mixed results. The will is there, but the policy context can often work against hard won efforts.

‘Today’s announcement recognises this by attempting to align a number of policies to speed progress. It will be important to learn carefully from new initiatives and not over claim their benefits.’

Click here to view the Government’s letter of invitation to local areas