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The future of health and social care – questions remain unanswered about effective integration according to local authorities, the NHS and private sector organisations

1 March 2013

PA Consulting Group announces a summary of discussions and short survey results following the PA and the New Local Government Network (NLGN) Health and Social Care Conference  

Broad questions about the future of health and social care services and the progress towards closer working were raised at the PA Consulting Group and NLGN Health and Social Care Conference. The event was held this week and attended by 65 health and social care executives. 

Attendees claimed that there are barriers that inhibit integration between the NHS and local social care services. If progress at the local level continues to be slow and patchy, attendees speculated whether integration might require a structural move to a national care service. Other key questions raised included whether it is realistic to expect partnerships to save money and whether the focus should instead be on tactical short term wins, where local ‘like-minded’ practitioners work together, rather than organisation-level formal partnerships.

Attendees expressed concerns about the impact of NHS reforms, suggesting this had slowed progress towards integration with social care. Health and social care leaders also wanted to know how health and wellbeing boards will influence service provision – a question that will be answered over the coming months.

At the event, attendees were asked if their organisation has yet had honest discussions with all of their partners about how they will work together to integrate local health and social care services.  No respondent believed these discussions were “complete”; whilst 44 per cent felt they were ‘under halfway there’.

Despite the disappointing level of progress, many participants believed that, although there are difficulties, integration was essential and inevitable.

Steve Carefull, health and social care expert at PA Consulting Group, comments: “Organisations are clearly at very different stages in the integration process. Only a minority have explored all the implications of integration. We need to look at why this is the case, learn from local successes and urgently up the pace if we are to stand any chance of providing sustainable adult social care services. If the sectors can’t make it work, the risk increases of a centrally imposed structural change, which would be hugely disruptive.”

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