The report, Let’s Get Together: Integrating Health and Social Care, calls on the government to recognise that combining two ‘financially challenged systems’ will require additional funding or changes to the regime for charging. The report also found that any benefits of integration may take some years to come through.
The study recommends that Invest to Save funding should be set aside to cover the inevitable costs of the process of integration, so that the short-term financial position of services won’t be undermined.
The report acknowledges the positive start made by the government’s £5.3 billion Better Care Fund to join up the NHS and council-run social care systems. However it warns that Greater Manchester and Cornwall devolution initiatives and pilots linked to the five year plan for the NHS will be ‘dissipated’ unless local health and social care providers are able to effectively budget for the medium term.
CIPFA urges central and local health and social care leaders to take the correct local action to facilitate integration. The right actions involve concentrating on frontline practice and ensuring that their staff possess the right attitudes, skills and knowledge to work together across organisational boundaries.
The report also outlines the need to invest in prevention and encourage people to take responsibility for looking after their own health.
Rob Whiteman, CEO of CIPFA, said: “The priority has to be creating a more integrated health and social care system that meets people’s needs while providing long term financial sustainability.
“While there have been some promising policy initiatives to achieve this goal, the government needs to act quickly and recognise that integration should not be an end in itself and it should not become weighed down by bureaucratic rules and targets."
He argued: “Instead, the government must accept that there will be significant upfront transitional costs and encourage local services to work together, build community capacity, plan for the medium term and focus on prevention.
“By tackling emerging health and social care issues through a whole systems approach, we are far more likely to achieve a stable long-term financial position and ultimately better services and outcomes for the public.”