The formation of Integrated Care Systems (ICS) as part of the Government’s plan to integrate health and social care ought to be an opportunity for a once-in-a-generation improvement in the quality of social care provision. For too long the social care sector has been in crisis due to increasing demands on the system which have not been met with enough funding or a sensible organisational structure.
Integration, if done properly, would alleviate many of the current problems and result in a better care experience for those who need care. However if integration is mishandled the Government will miss this unique opportunity and the crisis will continue, and indeed probably become more acute.
This report from the Public Policy Projects recommends:
1. Qualitative research into the benefits that well-funded social care can have on quality of life, independency, isolation, relationships and general wellbeing. This should be combined with formal quantitative research into the impacts that properly funded social care can have on the NHS, including quantifiable information about hospital bed availability and the economic impact of the reduction of accidents and preventable illness.
2. There should be clear public guidelines on the social care system and how to access social care services in a given area. There should be a social care app, similar to that of the NHS, to act as a central portal for people who require social care services. It should direct people to all available social care services within their ICS and must be user-friendly.
3. There should be standardised minimum pay bands across all social care providers, which match the equivalent bands in the NHS.
4. There should be clear guidelines for leadership structures within ICSs.
- There should be neutral leadership of Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs), which should be chaired by someone independent from the NHS, ideally a representative from local government. This will help to ensure that the health focus is not entirely on the hospitals in the area, but also social care and other local services.
- Representatives of local authorities in Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) should be responsible for voicing the needs of social care in the ICS.
- All ICPs must have a representative of social care services in the area who should either be, or work alongside, an individual with first-hand experience of either working in or receiving social care. Representatives should reach out to carers groups and care homes to properly represent community needs.
5. ICSs should adopt a local-government style complaint system, so that complaints made will be assessed in relation to the entire system, rather than individual departments
6. Digital training should be provided for all health and social care staff who require it. A system should be put in place which is accessible and easy to use for all staff, to ensure that staff with little digital experience can contribute to the online patient record effectively.