What integration means for social care
25 May 2023
5 min read
In this joint blog from Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth and Director of System and Social Partnership at NHS Employers Rebecca Smith, they discuss what integration between health and social care will mean for people who work in social care and people who draw on care and support.
Integration between health and social care is not a new idea. It’s been the strategic direction of travel across health and social care policy for a number of years, but the passing of the Health and Care Act 2022 in April last year and the formal establishment of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) in July 2022 have been key in moving the process forward.
Now, the recent Hewitt Review into the oversight, governance and accountability of ICSs has also brought the discussion to the forefront.
It reflected on the "compelling case" that social care providers should have a strong voice in every ICS. The review also highlighted that we have been here before, but previous attempts at integration have failed as they managed to overlook that while creating new structures matter - culture, leadership and behaviours matter far more.
At its core, integrating health and social care aims to co-ordinate and provide joined up and seamless services for people who draw on care and support for health or care needs.
This allows people to have more control over how their care is delivered, with fewer but more effective interactions with health and care professionals in places closer to where they live and work.
Integrated health and care can bring many benefits for people who draw on care or health services. It means that medical appointments can be combined saving them both time and money; they will be provided with personalised care plans which cover all their health and care needs; they can utilise personal health budgets towards both health and care support, and more importantly there can be a real focus on preventative care and staying well.
Integration provides an opportunity for person-centred care to be the anchor upon which services are designed, developed, and delivered.
Health and social care working together will inform the development of systems and processes which enable a smoother transfer of people and information across both services.
A shared understanding across different health and care services of each individual person’s priorities for their health and care needs will ensure a focus on the person at the centre of decision making.
There are many benefits of integrating health and care services for the people who work in social care. This way of working provides an opportunity to promote the importance of social care to our society and the skills and values-based approach of its workforce.
It also offers an opportunity for both health and care staff to gain greater understanding and education of the wider health and care sector, and the different roles this encompasses. Plus, there are opportunities for upskilling and specialising in new responsibilities.
People living in more rural areas could see particular advantages of more work opportunities being available closer to home.
It’s hoped that integration between health and care can positively impact workplace culture and bring a better overall experience for staff working in health and social care, and this of course will in turn support retention.
Ultimately integrated health and care will make it easier for people working in social care to support people to live their lives with autonomy and choice.
There are practical benefits which ICSs can offer to health and care providers in the local area including funding, training, and recruitment opportunities. Of course, the positive impact that integrated health and care can have on the people who draw on care and support is the ultimate motivator.
You can find out more about integration and how you can get involved with your local ICS on our #UnderstandingIntegration webpage.
Find out more about integrated workforce thinking in this guide from NHS Employers.
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