Sector Responds to the Government’s Health and Care Integration White Paper

Sector leaders have reacted to the governments newly released Integration White Paper linking up social care and NHS care to improve patient healthcare.

Commenting on the government’s health and care integration white paper, Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said:

‘More and more people are living with multiple health conditions and require the support of many different services, so the ambition to better integrate and coordinate those services is welcome. Similarly, we support the recognition that the integration of services best happens at the local level.

‘Local leaders need flexibility to determine their priorities and how they best integrate. However, this plan sets out a greater degree of national oversight of local governance and accountability than seen up until now and there will be nationally set priorities that must be met. Balancing national ambitions and local flexibility has long been a challenge in health and social care and is likely to remain so.

‘The plan also makes clear that key building blocks of this approach need significant further work over 2022. This makes it hard to see how the ideas will come to fruition by the planned deadline of April 2023 alongside all the other challenges the service is facing.

‘More significantly, the bringing together of the NHS and social care will not deal with fundamental challenges such as the workforce crisis gripping both sectors. Local leaders will only be able to work with the staff and budgets they already have.’

Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth said: “The integration white paper is a welcome acknowledgment that joined up, person-centred services work best for people who must be at the heart of care.

“Integrated care is about people having to tell their story once and is reliant on relationships and trust, with providers of care and health working together irrespective of uniform or badge. This will only be achieved if we are able to attract and retain staff with the right mix of skills, and a properly recognised and rewarded adult social care workforce will be vital in making sure that happens.

“Creating a national plan for our growing social care workforce will be critical as we consider what a fully funded integrated care system looks like, and whilst the integration white paper has a welcome recognition of the importance of placed based workforce planning there was no mention of a national workforce plan. Furthermore, plans for integration must encompass and involve the whole of the social care sector from local authority commissioners, through to voluntary and  small and medium enterprise (SME) providers of care. This will be key to ensuring the proposals announced today will make it easier for people in our communities who draw on services to have their needs met in the way they want.

“We look forward to working with the Government and other partners on the detail of what these proposals mean and how they can be made a reality.”

SCIE’s Chief Executive, Kathryn Smith, says: “The true test of integrated care is whether the changes to local services make a tangible difference to people’s care experiences. The pandemic demonstrated the inter-dependence of the NHS and social care. Whilst shared care records will enable the joined-up care people expect, better data does not on its own lead to better outcomes or experiences. A culture change in how care is organised, financed and delivered is just as important.”

“Local partnerships are key to delivering this ambition, and we welcome the White Paper’s continuity for integration reforms already underway. Our research supports the premise of flexibility for local ‘place’ arrangements. Involving citizens and communities is crucial for determining how best to meet the needs of local people and expand their care choices.”

SCIE Chief Executive, Kathryn Smith, concludes