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28.06.16

Calls for new department to oversee health and social care integration

Greater integration between health and social care, potentially including a new Department for Communities and Wellbeing, is needed, according to a new report.

The report, ‘Breaking Barriers – Building a Sustainable Future for Health and Social Care’, says that financial accountability and budgets for health and social care should be aligned through a new department.

It says that full service transformation, including greater integration of care, is vital to tackle both the £2.45bn NHS deficit and the social care funding gap, but that reforms should be locally based and come ‘from the ground up’.

Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, the report’s author, will say at its formal launch at the Grand Connaught Rooms in central London today: “Extreme financial pressures are being brought to bear on health and social care funding for the NHS and local government – amid ever-increasing demographic demand and the pressing strictures of the NHS Five Year Forward View.

“To have hope of surmounting the challenge, we need new ways of delivering public services that are collaborative, integrated and innovative and which offer realistic, practical and replicable solutions.

“The Breaking Barriers report shows how alternative delivery models that are place-based and designed with the people who use and deliver local health and care services can make a real difference and improve lives while ensuring the long term sustainability of these vital services.”

The report recommends sharing funding and resources for health and social care at Cabinet level and using single local commissioning authorities to cover health and social services.

New legal frameworks to support collaboration

It also says that new legal frameworks will be required to support collaboration between commissioners and providers, and that the whole system should be overseen by a combined authority led by an elected mayor.

The only combined authority to currently have responsibility for healthcare is Greater Manchester, which took control of health and social care in April.

Ex-MP Hazel Blears, who co-authored the report, said: “Now is the right time for a new approach and a model of change that will put those who use services at the centre and build a sustainable future for health and social care. Barriers will need to be broken in order to achieve this.

“This can be done through greater collaboration, integration and innovation between local and national government, the NHS and the wider public and social sectors. Devolution of responsibility and funding for health and social care is a real opportunity to think afresh and to create new integrated models which save money and improve lives. We must not miss this window for change.”

Multi-service hubs

The report also recommends the development of multi-service hubs, focused on specific pathways or service-user cohorts such as diabetes or dementia patients, and says that inspection should be devolved to a local level.

The report also says that local care plans should ensure that workforce development is aligned across health and social care, use digital innovation programmes and include partners from the public, private and social care sectors.

In addition, it calls for a local and national commitment to commissioning for five- and 10-year outcomes.

A recent joint report from the LGA, NHS Confederation, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and NHS Clinical Commissioners said that integrated care should be routine by 2020, but warned that this might be under threat because of funding cuts.

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