NHS ‘keen to maintain care integration gains’

The NHS is keen to maintain the increased integration between health and social care services beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the NHS Confederation.

The membership body that speaks on behalf of organisations that provide NHS services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland said “huge strides” had been made during the crisis to ease the transition from one sector to another.

In evidence submitted to the health and social care select committee’s ongoing ‘Social care: funding and workforce’ inquiry, the NHS Confederation said Covid-19 has had a profound impact on both sectors but despite the challenges there is “optimism that new ways of working can transform care”.

“For example, NHS leaders have seen previous obstacles to discharging patients evaporate because bureaucratic impediments have been removed and NHS funding has followed the patient into residential care,” it added.

“During the pandemic, the guidance was amended to enable faster discharge of patients from hospital to community and social care settings, when it was clinically safe to do so. The NHS is keen to maintain the gains that have resulted for patients.”

The membership body said there is a recognition “across the NHS” that it should be moving to a new approach in which “patients and residents are regarded as belonging to a united system.”

“The NHS was set up to make sure that everyone had access to good healthcare, regardless of their ability to pay, and argues that the same should apply to social care,” it added.

“The deep structural cracks in the social care system, a desperate shortage of resources, and the lack of joined-up working between the health and social care sectors have been exposed by Covid-19.

“The future must lie in some form of collaboration to plan, commission and deliver health and care services. We can and should no longer regard health and care as two separate systems.”