The Government needs to make significant changes to its health reforms and deliver a new model of integrated care to meet the challenges the NHS faces, says The King’s Fund.
A new paper, Where next for the NHS reforms? The case for integrated care, calls for the NHS to be re-orientated and based on stronger collaboration between health professionals and more effective organisation of services.
Chris Ham, The King’s Fund’s Chief Executive, says that integrated health care “offers the best prospect” of enabling the NHS to succeed in the future.
The report, written as a contribution to the Government’s current listening exercise, draws evidence from the NHS and the US which shows how closely-aligned care delivers better outcomes for patients with long-term conditions.
The Fund backs the need for reform, but it argues that changes must be made on a clear diagnosis of NHS performance and the difficulties it is expected to face.
It has called for a series of amendments to be made to the Health and Social Care Bill and wider health policy if the NHS is to deliver integrated care. These include that Monitor should be re-defined to allow the regulator to promote both competition and collaboration.
The main bodies involved in commissioning and providing health care should be under a duty to work together to achieve a goal of delivering integrated care, and GPs and specialists should work together to overcome “historic divisions within the medical profession”, the papers says.
The NHS’ payment systems should be reformed to encourage the delivery of high-quality, co-ordinated care and avoid perverse incentives to increase hospital treatment, the paper advises.
“We welcome recent indications that this argument is being heard within Government,” said Chris Ham. “But moving to an integrated health system requires more than a change in political rhetoric and a few tweaks to the Health Bill – it means making significant changes to health policy to ensure that integration is hard-wired throughout the NHS.”
Moving forward, the paper also highlights radical proposals to relax the current purchaser/provider split and enable groups of GPs and specialists to form ‘integrated care partnerships’ that provide, as well as commission, services.