The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has published a guide for physicians on what they need to know about implementing the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) to deliver more integrated care.
Integrating care is something physicians have been grappling with for decades. By integrated care we mean seamless, coordinated and locally designed care that puts patients at the centre of service organisation. It considers their needs in a holistic way, and develops high-quality services that meet those needs in settings accessible and convenient for patients.
The government recognised its importance by making integration a key part of the LTP it published in early 2019. The recommendation last week by NHS England that the government introduces an integrated care bill also highlights the growing political focus on this issue.
The government’s proposals in the LTP are rightly ambitious: our health system needs to do more to improve patient experience and outcomes. If the model of more integrated care outlined in the plan becomes a reality, the divide between GP and hospital doctor is likely to become increasingly blurred.
The development of local integrated care systems (ICSs) where organisations such as local councils, acute trusts and CCGs will take collective responsibility for resources such as funding and workforce - across England is crucial. They are an excellent opportunity for physicians to play an active role in designing services that work better for patients.
Our guide outlines how doctors can best influence their local ICS. It highlights some best practice and case studies, which we hope provide food for thought as to how clinicians may approach delivering more integrated health and care.
Dr John Dean, the RCP’s clinical director for quality improvement and patient safety said:
"In an ageing society where multiple health conditions are becoming the norm, more joined-up integrated healthcare is essential. The steps announced in the Long Term Plan are an important and ambitious effort to do just this. This guide provides simple and practical advice for physicians who want to know what they can do at a local level to support integration.
The RCP has long played a crucial role in supporting the delivery of an integrated person-centred approach to health, for example through our Future Hospital Programme. We will continue to do this as integrated care systems are rolled out by 2021. We will also ensure the views of clinicians and patients is front and centre, and continue to call for the government’s ambitious plans are matched by proper resourcing”.