Huge step towards health and social care integration

Somerset County Council has taken an important step towards closer work with the NHS in what would be a ground-breaking project with Somerset’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Yesterday (29 June) the Council’s Cabinet agreed to pursue further discussions with the CCG on the subject of closer integration between its Adult Social Care services and the health services provided by the CCG and NHS England. The aim is to provide better outcomes for residents and develop a new way of working that makes services sustainable in the long-term in light of an increasingly ageing population and continuing financial pressure.

The ‘Outcome Based Commissioning’ approach would be amongst the first of its scale in the country. It would see the County Council, the CCG and providers of local health services, like hospital and community health services, pooling their budgets and working much more closely with a renewed emphasis on preventing ill health, and not just providing costly treatment to patients after they become ill. Such an approach would also bring a sharper focus on outcomes – with life expectancy, quality of life, independence and wellbeing being a key indicator of success for organisations delivering health and social care services.

“Doing nothing isn’t an option,” said William Wallace, Cabinet Member for Adults Services at Somerset County Council, “We need an approach that works better for the growing number of older people in the county and one that gets more out of the funding that isn’t keeping pace with demand.

“People’s later years are increasingly spent managing multiple long-term conditions (such as diabetes, dementia, breathing problems) and the people being seen by our health colleagues are often the same people being seen by social care staff. It makes more sense to be working hand in hand with our health partners and the patient to understand what can be done to address, or ideally pre-empt, their needs.

“This approach is about bringing together what is currently a fragmented health and social care system – for both providers and commissioners – and making it work better for residents.”

Dr Matthew Dolman, Chair of the Somerset CCG, told the Cabinet meeting: “These are significant proposals and ones that are absolutely necessary for future delivery of health and social care in the county. Joining up fragmented systems to deliver high quality care is imperative, we need a system that can deliver high quality care that is affordable.”

The decision made yesterday commits the County Council to further discussions with the CCG about closer integration and pooling of budgets, and to supporting the development of a business case for the re-commissioning of health and in-scope social care services in Somerset, which would be brought to a future Cabinet meeting.