Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and care sector have continued to deliver remarkable performance under the most challenging of conditions. Two years on since the first lockdown, we are still digesting the irreversible changes that the world has gone through and the lessons to be learnt.
Despite recognition that our health and social care system is in urgent need of support, not much has actually changed. You may even argue that challenges have intensified: staffing pressures, huge backlogs, and still no long-term funding solution. What the last 18 months has brought into focus is that change needs to come sooner rather than later.
The Health and Care Bill, along with the creation of Integrated Care Systems as statutory bodies, could provide the impetus to drive such change, through closer alignment of services with a greater focus on population health and wellbeing.
There are already many successful examples of collaboration and innovative approaches being adopted across the sector, and we believe this culture of cooperation should be harnessed and expanded.
The government's ambitions to reduce health inequalities and prioritise prevention, while also recognising the importance of place, is very welcome, as set out in its recent White Paper, Health and social care integration: joining up care for people, places and populations.
However, the paper raises many questions on the key components of good public financial management — around the mechanisms for pooling or aligning budgets, accountability and governance arrangements — that need answering. CIPFA recognises these are critical elements in enabling effective collaboration across organisations that have different systems and cultures.
Good public financial management is central to successful integration. Taking a whole systems approach can increase the effectiveness of outcomes by recognising the interconnectedness of public bodies and partners, and the greater impact they can have through closer collaboration.
As a standards setter for local government, we have built long-lasting and strong relationships across the sector, while advocating for longer-term funding and good public financial management. This is why we are uniquely placed to support and empower integrated care systems to improve outcomes for society.
We are committed to being a trusted partner who can address the challenges and questions raised in the White Paper and beyond as integration evolves, and deliver solutions. We recognise that fostering a shared understanding and common language between partners is essential to the success of integration. In collaboration with the Healthcare Financial Management Association, we have supported this through work such as An introduction and glossary to NHS and local government finance and governance in England and Guidance for CFOs working in health and local government.
To this end, we are developing an integrating care hub, where key partners can come together to form a community to share experiences, shape thinking and inform the sector. It will be a space where we can maximise our collective efforts to create meaningful solutions for local government and the NHS, as they embark on this next phase of the integration journey.
To join the integrating care hub or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Webchat is available Monday to Friday, 09:00 - 17:00 (excluding UK bank holidays)