Shaping the future of health and social care

Mark Raeburn, managing director of Capita One, explores the key issues raised when local authority leaders came together to discuss health and social care integration.

ARE local authorities entering a new era of a more joined-up health and social care service for the nation? With the New Year off to a flying start, this might be a good time to reflect on what integration will look like at a local level.

What challenges need to be overcome to support health and social care in working together more closely in the community? Can technology play a part in shaping a more efficient and effective service in the years ahead?

These were some of the questions that came up for debate at a roundtable event recently hosted by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) in partnership with Capita One. The event brought together seven directors of adult social care to discuss the challenges ahead and reflect on the work already taking place to design and deliver a more integrated model of health and social care.

Building bridges

One priority is to lay down the foundations for strong working relationships between the services, according to John Powell, director of adult social services at the London Borough of Redbridge.

"We've intentionally gone into GP practices, starting dialogues in the localities and working together," he said.

"GPs, district nurses and social workers are all working together, bumping into one another. What we're now trying to do is build on the existing relationships we have."

Relationship building is central to success and a recent survey* suggested that addressing the issues around this is a key focus for local authorities. When asked, 65 per cent of local authority leaders indicated that the greatest challenge of delivering a more integrated service was the cultural shift for the people involved, compared with 35 per cent who stated that bringing systems together was the greatest challenge.

As Powell highlighted: "Where integration and joint working is successful, it is because of longstanding arrangements with relationships between people in the various organisations."

Play to your strengths

ImageHowever, in aspiring to a more joined-up working environment, some local authorities emphasise the need to preserve the distinct identity of the two sectors and are examining how this might help to ensure that people receive the best possible treatment and care in their communities.

Liz Bruce, director of adult social services for the London Tri-borough councils, suggested that the values and expertise of the different services must be taken into account in an integrated future.

"We should be clear about our ask and our offer in social care. The strengths and skills that you have if you mix up health and social care are tremendous if we get it right. Health is really good at other things that we in social care shouldn't take the lead in," she explained.

"By defining the roles and responsibilities of health and social care, citizens and their communities will get the best of both worlds from their services. This shouldn't be a land grab, it should be a partnership."

Providing the platform

There is a growing desire among local authority leaders to explore how technology might enable the shift towards a more people-centred approach to health and social care integration too.

David Pearson, director of adult social services at Nottinghamshire County Council, emphasised that the role of technology in supporting and managing service users' needs could be significant. But he underlined that "no matter how systems are brought together, it is important that, for social workers and health professionals, it feels as if it is one integrated system rather than multiple systems".

Local authorities are on the cusp of a new era in the delivery of health and social care. By building stronger connections - both cultural and technological - between those who support the most vulnerable in our communities, it is possible to shape a future in which people get the support they need to live more independent lives, for longer.

To read the full local authority interviews, please visit: www.capita-one.co.uk/ADASS/LGE

* The survey was carried out by Capita One at the National Adult and Children’s Services Conference in November 2016.and 72 local authority senior leaders responded.