Integrating Care ahead of the curve at the King’s Fund Integrated Care Summit

posted 05 November 2014

The senior advisors of Integrating Care recently took centre stage at the King’s Fund annual event, during a breakfast workshop. They shared their extensive experience and a hit list of '10 things that every provider needs to know about integration’ with delegates who work on the frontline of healthcare delivery and policy.

At the Summit delegates heard that integrating care is an inevitable reality and the question is no longer ‘why’ health and social care provision should integrate but has now moved on to ‘how’ implementation will work. As a result, the session was a precursor to much of the media debate that has followed Simon Stevens’s 'NHS Five Year Forward View’, in which he set out his belief that integrated change is fundamental to the continued delivery of health and social care in the UK.

As several of the panellists pointed out, the question of ‘why’ to integrate has already been answered with evidence from across the UK and internationally. The Integrating Care advisors collectively have a wide range of experience working on initiatives that have already improved systems of coordination and benefitted service users.

Much of the recent media coverage of the NHS Five Year Plan and its emphasis on integration has centred on what organisations and institutions will come to look like. The discussion at the workshop went much deeper. It focused on citizen’s experiences and the outcomes that should be used to align the ambitions of health and social care organisations to help pinpoint and tackle major health and social care challenges.

One of the key messages from the session was from Integrating Care advisor, and King’s Fund Fellow, Claire Perry. She emphasised that it is critical that health care organisations take the initiative with integrated care and own their approach at multiple levels of the organisation. Taking the lead was agreed to be far easier than being led into changes. Application of a universal model is the risk for healthcare organisations that are slow to reform.

The debate in the session made it clear that delivering integrated care can be achieved through a wide variety of differing approaches that draw on highly tailored communication channels and specialised system restructurings that often have their own complex nuances. However, there was resounding agreement around the priorities for care. This included keeping citizens safe, healthy, independent and close to home. The priorities are seen as a crucial starting point for institutions to align their aims and their services to deliver the benefits of integrated care.

Those who attended the breakfast workshop will be unsurprised by the recent government emphasis on the integration agenda. Particularly its role in improving the experience of the service user and at the same time making the NHS budget go further. The key now is to manage the shift from talking about and planning integrated care to actually delivering it. The workshop discussion made clear that this represents a considerable challenge with an array of considerations that will contribute to the effective integration of health and social care.