Better collaboration needed to deliver health and social care integration, warns auditor

Integration authorities, councils and NHS boards need to show a stronger commitment to collaborative working to achieve the real long term benefits of an integrated health and social care system, according to the Accounts Commission.

A report for the watchdog and the Auditor General published today has noted some progress, but said the remaining challenges are significant. It found that success will depend on long term integrated financial planning and stable and effective leadership.

The report said all bodies involved need to tackle these issues as a matter of urgency in order to transform the way services are provided for Scotland’s ageing population.

Integration authorities are collectively responsible for almost £9 billion of health and social care spending. The context for integration is increasingly challenging, with rising demand for services and mounting financial pressures on councils and NHS Boards.

Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: “All partners, at a national and local level, need to work together to ensure the successful delivery of integrated health and social care services in Scotland.

“This will allow people to receive the care they need at the right time and in the right setting, with a focus on community-based, preventative care.”

Graham Sharp, chair of the Accounts Commission, added: “There are examples of integrated health and social care services making a positive difference to people’s lives, but these tend to be local and small scale. The potential for a profound and long-term shift in the way health and social care services are delivered is clear, but there is still a long way to go.

“A collective effort from the Scottish Government, COSLA, NHS Boards, councils and the Integration Authorities is needed for health and social integration to make a more meaningful difference to the people of Scotland.”

Councillor Stuart Currie, COSLA spokesperson for health and social care, said: “As today’s report clearly states, integration is beginning to make a demonstrable improvement to the health and social care system but more needs to be done to realise its full potential. While Audit Scotland raise a number of issues with integration so far, we absolutely recognise these and the report is welcome in highlighting the challenges that lie ahead.

“COSLA and our members are fully committed to integration and we are working hard with Scottish Government, the NHS and Integration Authorities to make it work. As part of this, we are carrying out a review of progress under integration with the Scottish Government which will identify and find ways to address many of the issues highlighted by Audit Scotland.

“By responding to the recommendations from this report and through the work of the review, I am determined that local government and the NHS can work together not only to improve the way the system works but, most importantly, deliver improved outcomes for our communities.”

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