Health and care integration: is it worth it?

By Sanjay Mackintosh | 06 March 2024

Like previous iterations – the Better Care Fund and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships to name a couple – integrated care boards (ICBs) and integrated care partnerships (ICPs) are the next step on the journey with deeper involvement from local authorities, the voluntary and community sector, and members of the public in governance and decision making.

All very sensible. But things took a turn last year when ICBs were tasked by NHS England with reducing their running costs by 20% by April 2024, and a further 10% by April 2025.

As a result, a few things are happening around the country that appear to be flying in the face of what integrated health and care should be. Some ICBs are making savings by exiting their section 75 arrangements – longstanding agreements between local authorities and the NHS to align or pool their funding and jointly invest in services that deliver health and social care outcomes for local people. Combine this with the financial pressures local authorities are facing across the country where continued savings are being made in children’s and adult services, the worry is that immediate challenges around money will undo some fantastic services for local people – and they won’t even be part of that conversation.

So is health and care integration worth all the effort when the two systems are on their knees and everything seems to get harder and harder? The answer is it has to be. Where ICBs and local authorities have created historically strong local relationships, they are using this to ride the storm of their financial challenges and protect valuable services for as long as possible.

But think of it from the individual’s perspective – all they have ever wanted is joined up health and social care when they need it. It has to be worth it for them. I just hope the powers that be realise that this is why we’re doing it.

We’ll be at The MJ’s Future Forum South reflecting on this a bit more.

Sanjay Mackintosh is managing director of Roretti

This article is sponsored content for The MJ

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