Watchdog calls for barriers between health and social care to be broken

Barriers between the NHS and social care could be broken down by team working between those responsible for the assessments, care and discharge of patients and by better data sharing.


The barriers between health and social care risk duplication and wasted resources

The proposal is made in a ‘think piece’ from spending watchdog the National Audit Office, which warns that failing to move towards whole-system working risks gaps, duplication and wasted resources.

In addition, problems with sharing data across health and social care can prevent an individual’s care from being coordinated smoothly, it says.

Euan McComiskie, CSP professional adviser for health informatics, said: ‘We need open, well-governed data sharing processes and interoperability between systems.

‘That would to stop us working in silos, not just between health and social care, but across different sectors within healthcare.

‘Appropriate data sharing protocols to support better data flow would help improve patient flow and provide better care.’

Reducing duplication

Since the NHS was established in 1948, the population’s health and social care needs have changed greatly.

People are now living longer, but often with multiple and complex conditions. But the division of care into two separate sectors has not fundamentally changed over that time.

People, particularly those with complex needs, get health and social care from a range of organisations, professionals and services, the report says.

Care can be uncoordinated and fragmented. It can involve multiple assessments and uncoordinated visits from different health and social care professionals, or several trips to hospitals for tests, diagnostics and treatment.

The watchdog calls for better working between health and social care in a way that minimises duplication of effort by both the person and the professionals who provide care.

Mr McComiskie said that appropriate data sharing would help to reduce duplication. ‘Even with digital systems, patients are still being asked the same thing over and over.

‘So good data sharing could minimise duplication of data collection and recording, which would free up clinicians time to provide better care and give a better patient experience.’

Information sharing

The good news is that there are examples of success in implementing a functioning shared care record across health and social care.

In Leeds, information from hospitals, GPs, mental health, community health and adult social care has been pulled together into a single patient record, the report says. The time saved has been equivalent to a reported £1 million per year.

NHS England told the auditor that 61 local areas have now set up information-sharing initiatives.

The National Audit Office identified widespread consensus among health and social care professionals, the NHS and policy-makers in government that the changing needs of the population require changes to the way health and social care services are organised and delivered.

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