Integrated care systems
The importance of different parts of the health and care system working together in the best interests of the public and patients, regardless of legislative barriers, has been known for many years. Collaboration between health and social care has been accelerated significantly over the last 2 years, demonstrating what can been done when working together, being flexible, adopting new technology directed towards the needs of the patient and putting aside red tape that has stifled creativity and innovation.
The purpose of integrated care is to enhance people's care outcomes and their experiences of care provision, by bringing services together that are located around people and communities. Achieving this will require tackling the fragmentation of services and the lack of co-ordination that people can experience, by providing person-centred care that is joined-up, responsive and appropriate.
The ongoing absence of a unified approach to health and care continues to result in a disgraceful waste of scarce public resources, particularly the enduring issue of delayed transfers of people and their care from NHS hospitals, free at the point of need, into means-tested care provision within the community. The integration of the two systems has real potential to lead to a far more humane approach to addressing people's needs and to the gradual alignment of staff terms and conditions – this would be particularly beneficial for care staff. The question has to be asked: why has integrated care not become the reality that it could have become, when it is what patients and staff can see is needed?
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