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Making integrated services a reality

Sally Gretton, Programme Head Integration, Skills for Care

Sally Gretton, Programme Head Integration, Skills for Care

For many in adult social care their experience can make it easy to be cynical about the integration agenda as it has a history of repainting the signposts towards change, but all too often failing to actually start on the path to joined up services.

I know this all too well having worked in the Adult Social Care sector for over four decades as we try to transform care and health by making sure that the real-life experiences of people who draw on care and support is a seamless one. That they only need to tell one story which is then supported by the skills and knowledge of one workforce.

The newly created Integrated Care Systems, which are now operational, create partnerships to bring together organisations to plan and deliver care and health services to achieve this ambition, with social care providers most likely to be involved with an Integrated Care Partnership.

This partnership is designed to bring together partners from across both systems to develop a plan that addresses the broader health, public health and social care needs of their local population. It is the opportunities presented to care services by this plan which I want to focus on because as with previous attempts, integration will not happen if social care is not actively engaged and seen as the source of answers – not just problems. These plans should be built on the insights of adult social care providers offering frontline services and not just communicated to them.

We need to be sure the chairs are not just re-arranged around the proverbial reform table yet again, so that means enabling the full breadth of social care providers to pull up their chairs too.  That means we can build trust and relationships around their unique perspective and insights that are always rooted in local communities.

There was some guidance in July that set out expected ways of working between Integrated Care Partnerships and adult social care providers. We welcome that  adult social care providers are rightly identified as critical partners who bring “hugely valuable expertise in meeting current and future needs of their wider communities as well as deep insight and understanding of the people and communities they serve”.

With Integrated Care Systems having gone live in July, and Integrated Care Partnerships expected to publish an initial strategy by December, the next few months offer a window where the social care voice can be heard, and the guidance for the preparation of integrated care strategies is a call to action.

We have been asked by DHSC as part of our work programme to work with Integrated Care Systems to offer our insight, solutions and practical support, which is built on the most comprehensive picture and analysis of the adult social care workforce in England through the Adult Social Care Workforce Dataset (ASC-WDS).

Based on my own experience it’s no surprise that we often see a close correlation between some of the best innovation in integrated working when there is close engagement with adult social care, but this remains patchy, and all often fails to take into account the breadth and depth of the sector to enable engagement.

It’s for that reason that anyone charged with drawing up an integrated care strategy,  or any adult social care provider, needs to take close note of some key passages from the guidance released in July. That guidance very clearly states that Integrated Care Partnerships should recognise the diverse nature of the adult social care provider landscape, take account of their competing priorities, differing capacities, and resources to engage, not assume commissioners are adequate proxies for the provider voice and draw on networks, including registered managers.

I know from my time heading up an area team for Skills for Care that our providers are critical strategic partners. My experience of previous integration initiatives has made it clear to me that we need a renewed focus on achieving a singular vision based on a shared outcomes framework as set out in the integration white paper published earlier this year. Services should be built on the person, not just their needs, and we know that delivering genuinely personalised care and support does that best.

I work closely with Skills for Care’s network of locality managers across the country who are talking to adult social care providers and others partners all the time. The guidance has highlighted both the unique insights that can be drawn from our complex sector, whilst recognising the challenges to engagement.

Adult social care needs to get involved in the integration agenda, but you may need support in how to do that so if you have questions get in touch with your Skills for Care locality manager.

It’s good to talk, and with your help we can put our 19,200 care providers right at the heart of integrating services to meet the needs of millions of people who draw on care and support. After all, that’s why we do what we do.


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