For me, one of the defining moments of 2013 was the announcement last June of the £3.8 billion pooled fund intended to promote and galvanise joint working between health, care and support services to create truly integrated care at a local level.
Now known as the Better Care Fund, it represents the biggest opportunity yet for local services to come together to improve the health and lives of people in their communities.
These pooled budgets come into full force in 2015, but I’m delighted to see collaboration already underway across the country, led by the 14 integration pioneers announced last month by our Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb.
I’m delighted too that further support has been reaffirmed today in this letter to sector colleagues from Norman Lamb and Brandon Lewis, the lead ministers for the fund. Together, they reference the extra £200 million available for local areas through the NHS transfer to social care next year. This additional funding will support the transition to better integrated care. The letter also refers to the guidance now available to help CCGs, local authorities and their partners understand and meet the conditions and other criteria for the fund.
I also echo the ministers’ call to local authorities, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and care and support services to begin intensive planning now, if they haven’t already done so. Draft plans have to be submitted by mid-February. Like the 14 pioneer areas already announced, I’m looking forward to seeing the innovation, enthusiasm and creativity I know is out there expressed in ambitious programmes for real change. It’s also worth visiting the LGA website as there are some really useful tools and resources there, including forthcoming webinars on particular hot topics. We are also running a number of regional events over the next two months.
What we all want to see is a seamless pathway of care that delivers the best possible health outcomes for people. In a previous blog I set out some of the essential characteristics of successful integration. But there is no blueprint. It will mean different things in different places. Some of the key things we want to see are:
- Professionals sharing information about the individuals they care for, working as a team to find the best solutions to support people’s lives
- Health and care planning coming together to increase the range and provision of seven day services so people receive the help they need, when they need it. This includes getting them home as quickly as possible following hospital stays
- More preventive action and proactive support to keep people well, leading to greater independence for longer, and a reduction in emergency admissions
- Properly assessed and managed admissions to residential care, with assessments taking place at home rather than in hospital, wherever possible
- Really thinking through the consequences for the acute sector and how these can be properly planned and managed based on full risk assessment
- Making sure we think about how other parties can contribute to new models, including, crucially, the role of carers and other providers, such as social landlords.
Health and Wellbeing Boards have a crucial role at local level to help make better integration of health and care services a reality. They will ensure that all key partners have contributed to - and are in agreement with - the plans.
From Barnsley to Kent, Torbay to Greenwich, we’ve already seen the fruits of smarter integration through earlier, joined-up interventions, but I know there is so much more we can achieve, both locally and nationally.
The Better Care Fund is a fantastic opportunity to do more, better, faster. This is challenging and exciting work and I look forward to seeing even more innovative solutions developed as we head towards 2015.