Integration of health and social care at risk if funding and workforce pressures aren't addressed, say MPs

‘Government has failed to explain its vision for health and social care to professionals and public’
Sarah Wollaston

‘Government has failed to explain its vision for health and social care to professionals and public’

Commons health and social care committee chair Sarah Wollaston

Plans to integrate health and social care in England could be jeopardised by NHS funding and workforce pressures, MPs said.

The Commons health and social care committee has published a report, Integrated care: organisations, partnerships and systems, that said the government has yet to explain the case for change, while overuse of jargon and poor communication is confusing health professionals and the public.

Inadequate investment

The cross-party committee's report is the culmination of an inquiry into the effectiveness of partnerships between NHS organisations and local authorities. It said: ‘The NHS and local government have not been given adequate investment, support and time to embark on the scale of transformation envisaged.

‘Transformation depends not only on having sufficient staff to maintain day-to-day services, but on the capacity of staff to redesign services, engage in dialogue and consultation and develop new skills. Transformation also requires funding the staff costs associated with double-running new services, while old models are safely decommissioned.’

The MPs added that poor communication had ‘fuelled suspicion about the underlying purpose of the proposals and missed opportunities to build goodwill’.

RCN assistant director of policy and public affairs Lara Carmona acknowledged the importance of integrated services but said integration would ‘remain a fantasy’ until the government gets to grips with recruiting and retaining nurses.

Funds for staffing

Anticipating prime minister Theresa May’s predicted funding announcement for the NHS to mark its 70th anniversary next month, Ms Carmona added: ‘Ensuring funding and commissioning enough nursing staff to meet population need has to be at the heart of the prime minister’s long-term funding settlement,’ she said.

The RCN said a rise in emergency admissions showed how stretched community services are, with a 15% drop in the number of full-time equivalent nurses working in community services in England between May 2010 and July 2017.

Health and social care committee chair, the Conservative MP and GP Sarah Wollaston, said: ‘It is the triumph of our age that more people are living longer, but as MPs we too often see our constituents, their families and their carers grapple with local services that may be poorly organised around their needs and struggling to cope with the rising demand for care.

‘As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday national leaders, and politicians from across the political spectrum at national and local level must help to make the case for change to the public. Any effort to transform care will flounder and lose support unless it can demonstrate that patients and their families will benefit.’

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea added that competition and the internal market have created unnecessary pressures on an already overstretched NHS, making it harder to integrate services and improve care.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Integrating care is about bringing services together, so people's care is coordinated around them. We remain committed to being open with the public and we will consider this report and work with the NHS to respond in due course.’

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