Blog Posts - Lincolnshire Care Association


24/06/2024   Social Care Integration: A Message to the Next Government

The nation will choose a new government in just a few days’ time, and whoever gains the keys to 10 Downing Street will find the future of adult social care near the top of their inbox.

In the last of a three-part series of articles Melanie Weatherley MBE, Chair of the Lincolnshire Care Association, explains why integrated care systems are so important for the future of social care in this country and gives the next Secretary of State for Health and Social Care some timely advice.

Whenever pressures on the NHS are discussed, it’s never long before someone points out the link between NHS performance and the state of adult social care. When A&E departments are full to bursting, and when hospital beds can’t be found for sick and vulnerable patients, a contributory factor is often a lack of available beds in care homes; elderly patients who are well enough to be discharged from hospital can’t leave because there’s nowhere in the social care system for them to be properly looked after.

The relationship between NHS care and social care is a close one, which is why the two systems need to be properly integrated if they’re to function effectively. As we approach the General Election all the main political parties have announced their manifesto, and it’s good to see that they all recognise the importance of integration and the strong links between social care and NHS. Hopefully this will lead to an understanding that proper investment in social care will bring dividends for the NHS too.

It feels as if our healthcare system and our social care system have both been at breaking point for many years; and when a new government is elected the temptation can be to tear up the accepted way of doing things and try to create a new working model. Our health and care systems appear to be broken, and it would not be a major surprise if the next government looked to make fundamental changes to the way the two systems interact with each other.

I would urge the next Prime Minister to resist this temptation, and instead to build on and improve what we’ve already got rather than start all over again.

Integrated care systems are relatively new, and they are at different stages of maturity in different parts of the country. In Lincolnshire we are fortunate that our senior leaders have recognised that good health and care depends on many things outside of the NHS and the local authority. Working in partnership with housing providers, the police and the justice system, and nurturing key relationships with the voluntary sector and with providers of care, has enabled us to create an ambitious system which delivers the desired outcomes.

It has taken some time to figure out how we can all fit together and which parts of the complex integrated care landscape we belong to, but we are going in the right direction.

The temptation for an incoming administration is to shake things up and try to achieve improvements through disruption – by renaming or reorganising things, or by changing who has a right to a place on what decision-making bodies, and who needs to wait to be asked. Once the dust has settled, however, the partnerships would probably not be very different from the way they were before the reorganisation. So let’s start from where we are now, and let’s continue to improve the way our systems work together, rather than waste time and money (both of which are in short supply) on needless reorganisation.

Caring for people living with complex needs closer to their home works best when care is shared by everyone: families, social care teams and health colleagues. To make this work – so that we can provide the best possible outcomes for people and at the same time make the best use of public funds – requires effective integration. The building blocks of integration are already in place, so let’s not take a sledgehammer to them when what’s needed is more patient building work.