The NHS must focus on patients when considering mergers with social care, the Department of Health’s new quality and productivity clinical lead has warned.

Preventing unnecessary admissions for long term conditions was reiterated in the operating framework and comes as the DH is backing a greater NHS role in social care.

Sir John Oldham, a GP and member of the DH national quality board, said: “Looking at the interface between health and social care is extremely important.

“[However,] I don’t think we can achieve synergies by seeking to impose a medical model of care on a social model of care. That’s why we should focus on the patient’s eye [perspective on services].

“We should think about how we integrate relationships rather than focus on structures.”

Speaking about integration of acute and community services, County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust chief executive Stephen Eames, who has called for such integration to be encouraged, said making one organisation responsible for more of an individual’s care would help improve quality and efficiency.

He said: “There needs to be a single point of accountability for the whole pathway… That will drive the personalisation better. It also simplifies the relationship between health and social care.

“If you have accountability clinically and managerially for the whole patient pathway… it becomes much easier to remove unnecessary steps from clinical processes, improve quality and do some things much more economically.”

However, Mr Eames accepted there would have to be “pretty challenging” commissioning to make sure providers were moving services out of hospital.