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Integrated Care – 2016 to 2026

January 3, 2016

One 2016 new year forecast for all public services

An elderly lady with mild dementia has a fall and goes to hospital. Once her medical needs are resolved, she needs to be assessed for social care; but she waits too long on the ward because social care and NHS care are not joined up enough. When she is finally discharged, she is considerably more confused and has a more complicated care package – costing more and reducing her quality of life.

Meeting the double challenge of an ageing population and reducing budgets will be the make or break issues of local public service. Over the next decade, these two factors will amplify the creaking sound of local public services. An ageing population is a population with increasing frailty, dementia and related problems. This creates exponentially increasing demands on health and social care as well as on charities and police services protecting vulnerable people.

Ongoing organisational efficiencies – whilst essential – are insufficient to meet these challenges.

Integrated working across Local Government, NHS, blue lights and third sector is essential. Preventative measures in social care, community policing and public health, addressing root causes are “must have” solutions of 2016 and beyond.

Integrated working requires shared objectives, shared business processes and shared information systems. It does not require big national systems though. Instead it requires local public service partners to prioritise their integrated working requirements and work out what information sharing works best for them – and to implement their answer quickly, effectively and with shared learning.

As separate independent legal entities, each of these organisations is struggling to balance their books, so the notion of investing in each other’s efficiencies is hard to swallow. But its likely to be the only long term way to meet the double challenge of an ageing population and austerity.

2015 saw the first of these local integrated working arrangements beginning to take shape. The next decade will have to see much more. By 2025, more than a third of the UK’s population will be over 55.

For all of our futures, let’s hope that integrated local services have been a triumphant success.

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