Integrated care the solution for NHS reforms

Significant changes to the way healthcare services are delivered are needed in order for the NHS to meet the challenges of the future, a leading professor has warned.

Speaking at a debate hosted by business advisory firm Deloitte, Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund, a charity dedicated to improving the health system in England, said the NHS needed to be re-orientated to deliver a new model of ‘integrated’ care, based on stronger collaboration between health professionals and more effective co-ordination of services.

“The NHS is faced with the major challenges of using resources more efficiently and of meeting the needs of an ageing population in which chronic medical conditions are increasingly prevalent,” he said.

“The key task therefore is to implement a new model of care, less orientated to treating people when they become ill and more focused on prevention, accompanied by a progressive shift in resources away from acute hospitals to providing care in and closer to people’s homes.

“This should seek to achieve the triple aim of improved patient experiences, better health outcomes and more cost-effective care. Moving to the new model requires a comprehensive approach that improves the co-ordination of services for patients and promotes integration in the delivery of care.”

Professor Ham, who has been professor of health policy and management at the University of Birmingham since 1992, said a number of significant changes would be required to deliver integrated care, including:

–       Amendments made to the Health and Social Care Bill to strengthen the emphasis on integration are a useful starting point – the NHS Commissioning Board must now lead a process of change to ensure it is hard-wired throughout the NHS.

–       GPs and specialists should work more closely together to overcome historic divisions within the medical profession.

–       NHS payment systems should be reformed to encourage the delivery of high-quality, co-ordinated care and avoid incentives to increase hospital treatment, as is the case under the current system.

–       Regional-level leadership is needed to plan the delivery of specialist services such as cancer, cardiac and stroke care.

With NHS spending now standing at more than £100 billion a year and with the Spending Review committing the NHS to finding £20 billion in productivity improvements by 2015, Professor Ham said integrated care would enable the NHS to continue improving patient care in a difficult financial climate.

He said: “If implemented, the changes we are proposing would enable the NHS to meet the financial challenges it faces and above all to improve outcomes for patients.”

Gus Miah, healthcare partner at Deloitte in Birmingham, said: “The challenges faced by the NHS are significant; a number of the steps outlined by Professor Chris Ham should lead to improvements in patient care and support the reform agenda.”

 

Picture caption: Professor Chris Ham (right) with Gus Miah from Deloitte.

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