Working together to improve health and social care for all
Our health and care needs are changing as people start to live longer, with many developing complex illnesses and long-term conditions requiring around-the-clock care from various services and professionals. As a result, integrated care is needed now more than ever. The health and social care sector play a crucial role in helping older people manage long-term conditions, ensuring they receive the proper care and support to help them live as well and comfortably as possible.
Implementing joined up, integrated care will:
- Help to improve people's lives and deliver better outcomes
- End the deep divide between health and social care
- Reduce pressure on health and social care services
- Improve coordinated care, helping to give quicker diagnosis and treatment
Integrating health and social care services has been a long-standing goal for many years, with several policies being written and published in the last decade.
In 2014, NHS England published a strategy called Five Year Forward View, which outlined a vision to transform the NHS and social care in England to become more integrated - the NHS Long Term Plan then followed, published in 2018, to set out additional steps towards integration. Then, in 2021, a white paper was published, Integration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all, setting forth legislative change to enable better integration in England. Finally, in 2022, the Health and social care integration: joining up care for people, places and populations policy was published, setting out measures to make integrated health and social care a universal reality for everyone across England regardless of their condition and of where they live.
Person Centred Software, a market leader in care home software and provider of the UK's most widely used Digital Care System, supplies the care sector with solutions that improve residents' care outcomes and allow care providers more time to care. From electronic care planning software to medication and visitor management systems, Person Centred Software has been transforming social care with its digital technology since 2013. The technology company has also been working hard to bring organisations closer together, improving the delivery of health and social care services through interoperability and sharing of data. Person Centred Software is working with several partners to develop a care ecosystem, incorporating a complete suite of digital systems that work together and feed into their Digital Care System. For example, the company is working with PainChek®, the world's first smartphone pain monitoring and assessment technology that uses AI and facial recognition technology.
PainChek has been integrated into the Digital Care System to deliver a joined-up solution for care providers to monitor pain in people who are non-verbal, such as those living with dementia. The pain management system helps to reduce the guesswork in assessing people's needs and ensures the delivery of more accurate and appropriate medication.
Another example of joined up care is GP Connect; in February 2021, Person Centred Software launched its GP Connect integration to customers via its Digital Care System, which improved clinical decision-making and facilitated better patient care and outcomes. Person Centred Software connected over 21,000 care home beds to health services within a year of going live. The GP Connect service has helped nurses and social care professionals have the information they need to deliver outstanding care. For example, registered social care providers can now access residents’ case histories at record speed, enabling them to make faster and more responsible medical decisions as they continue to deal with the waiting list backlog that has arisen since the outbreak of COVID-19.
It has massively improved information flow as people transition between hospital and care home settings – reiterating the need for all social care providers to adopt digital care systems urgently.
‘’The key benefit of the integration with GP Connect is that our nurses now have access to real-time information as well as a clear picture of historic care for our residents. The vast amount of time saved by having instantaneous accessibility is beneficial for not only our nurses but for GPs too as we no longer need to call GPs for updates or information.’’
Mike Armstrong, Managing Director at Havering Care Homes
Peron Centred Software also provides ATLAS GP to care providers, which links to the GP surgery prescribing system through the NHS Proxy Medication Ordering Scheme. It allows care homes to send prescription requests directly to GP surgeries and receive notifications when their prescriptions are authorised. The care home can then check each resident's exact therapy and administration schedules.
What joined up care might look like in the future?
Working together to improve health and social care for all, the Health and Care Act 2022 prepares for the future with integrated care systems (ICSs). The 2022 Health and Care Act launched new legislative measures to make it easier for health and care organisations to deliver joined-up care for people who rely on multiple services. Considering the future of health and care integration, ICSs in England were prominent in the NHS Long Term Plan and Health and Care Act. ICSs aim to deliver better, more integrated care for people, with a better and clearer transfer of information from one professional to another.
A joined up, and integrated approach will deliver better outcomes to those using health and social care services, enable services to be more proactive and effective, ensure that people receive the right care in the right place in a timely manner, reduce the burden on services and save lives.
Today’s successes are just the start of the journey to delivering integrated services, but we cannot stop there. Data awareness, data sharing, and the use of technology to support decision-making will become the ‘norm’ rather than the exception. So, it is imperative that we support the NHS and social care by removing obstacles and championing those living and working within these sectors.
Increasing costs of living are a major factor affecting people's access to services. Poverty, debt, mental illness, and domestic conflict are some of the consequences of the crisis. However, technology is improving how services operate, ensuring interoperability across health and social care systems to speed up a person's time for treatment and care. It's not only speeding up existing processes but also allowing new, more flexible ways of working, meaning more and more people can access the support they need when they need it more cost-effectively.