Simon Morioka 10 December 2014

Five things every councillor needs to know about integrated care

How to get the most out of working in partnership with the NHS to deliver better co-ordinated, person-centred care.

1. Successful integration is about trust

People have always tried to develop better systems of health and care from forests of organisational strategies, governance, spreadsheets and analysis. These have their place. But without local communities that understand and are engaged; professionals, who believe it is the right thing to do; and partners, who are prepared jointly to weather the invariable storms ahead; no amount of process or structure will deliver better outcomes on the ground.

Councillors have a key leadership role at all levels to ensure that local resources are being effectively pooled where beneficial and that local communities are fully engaged in these changes.

2. The NHS and local government are more similar and more different than we think

It doesn’t take much time spent within either health or local government environments to recognise that the drivers, culture and practices are very different. Taking time to understand these differences, where they come from and what they mean for the future, is key to building effectively integrated services. This matters, because both health and care services are under unprecedented pressure. The most important thing both share are the communities they work to support; and in this, they will succeed or fail together.

3. This is about ensuring Mrs Smith gets the care she deserves

'Mrs Smith' lives in Torbay and helped to start a revolution in the way local health and care services were delivered. Across the country, there are millions of people like Mrs Smith who need support to live independently and well. When we fail her, it is not just Mrs Smith that suffers, but our local health and care economy as a whole. Mrs Smith is your constituent, and she belongs to the voting generation, but that is not why she is important. You don’t need to know Mrs Smith, to know and care for someone just like her.

4. There is no one-size fits all model, but nowhere are we starting from scratch

Every area is different, reflecting different local priorities, capabilities and needs. Nonetheless, there are a number of common challenges – including how best to engage service users and professionals; how to plan care in a way that genuinely transforms outcomes; how to share related information safely and responsibly; and how to ensure there are services in place to deliver high quality, sustainable care. Increasingly, there is a body of emerging best-practice that shows these challenges can be overcome.

5. This will not happen without you

Debates about integrated care can easily get lost in the latest policy or initiative. However, you don’t need to be an expert in the social-economic determinants of health and wellbeing, to know that helping people to live healthier, independent and better lives is about far more than the medical model, or what our limited resources for social care can achieve.

It is important to recognise that disconnects are occurring not just between health and local government, but within the different services that each offer. Similarly, taking a person-centred, co-ordinated view is as much about transforming the way that council services work with each other, as it is about changing the way that we work with colleagues in health.

Simon Morioka is joint managing director of PPL, an independent consultancy working on practical projects promoting health, wellbeing and economic success across the UK

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