When will patients feel the benefit of health and social care collaboration?

Local NHS organisations have been collaborating over the future of health and social care services
Local NHS organisations have been collaborating over the future of health and social care services
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Collaboration between organisations involved in health and social care across Lancashire is so far lacking any “clinical impact”, a hospital board member has said.

Jim Whitaker, a non-executive director of the trust which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals, said patients would be unable to point to any benefits from the work of Lancashire and South Cumbria’s Integrated Care System (ICS).

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The ICS is an umbrella organisation of NHS, local government and voluntary bodies whose roots lie in a plan first formed three years ago to encourage closer working and provide more effective services.

“There must be small-scale things the ICS can seize on to demonstrate that working together can have an impact,” Mr Whitaker told a board meeting of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (LTH).

“It seems to me all the emphasis has gone into the structural stuff.

“As an outsider, I’d look at this and think you’d spent time talking about things, but not achieving anything for patient benefit,” he added.

The ICS currently exists in what is known as “shadow form”, because there is no government legislation which allows it – and more than a dozen similar organisations across the country – to formally exist.

LTH finance director Paul Havey said the future impact of the ICS would depend on whether the different parts of the health and social care sector were ready to change how they view each other.

“In many ways, it’s about moving from an adversarial or contractual relationship and into the co-production of services,” he said.

The ICS has laid out a vision to tackle health inequalities, provide consistent services and bring the local health and social care system into financial balance.

LTH chief executive Karen Partington said individual organisations were not yet at the point of pooling budgets and added that the majority of tangible changes were being made within Lancashire and South Cumbria’s five sub-regions, where the focus is on improved neighbourhood working.

“Only around 20% [of change] would affect the whole ICS [area] – and, by its nature, anything of that scale takes time,” she explained.

Trust chair Sue Musson said that organisations are “cracking on with what they feel they can achieve to improve the experience of patients”.

The ICS was approached for comment on the issues raised in the meeting. It referred the local democracy reporting service to a document highlighting what the ICS claims to have achieved so far, including:

***101,000 people using apps to book their primary care appointments across Lancashire and South Cumbria.

***78% of care homes using a tool which allows for bed vacancies to be tracked which is helping to reduce avoidable lengthy stays in hospital.

***£7.6million funding from NHS England is facilitating an initiative to diagnose lung cancer earlier in Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen.