A significant rise in hospital admissions in recent years is largely due to fragmented health and social care services, according to a think-tank.
Policy Exchange said the number of hospital admissions had increased by 2.8m since 2005.
In a new report, the organisation suggests that a lack of co-ordination between primary care trusts, GP practices, hospitals and other providers has led to an increase of hospital admissions for patients with long-term conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s who could be treated elsewhere.
It claims that by international standards, patients in England with chronic diseases are more likely to be admitted to hospital and stay much longer once admitted.
The report, called All Together Now: Competitive integration in the NHS, suggests that pay incentives for doctors should not be handed out for basic administrative tasks but for reducing the number of hospital admissions.
The organisation recommends that the current incentives system should be overhauled to encourage GPs and consultants to work together to provide integrated care for patients.
The report also calls for the Department of Health to run a pilot scheme of “integrated care organisations” which would bring together all local services into one organisation, operating under a single budget.
Henry Featherstone, author of the report, said: “Most patients don’t want to be stuck in a hospital ward when they could be treated in expanded GP surgeries closer to home or better still in their own homes.
“But, perversely, the present system of organisational and individual incentives actually encourages admissions to hospital. This is expensive for the NHS and bad for patient care.
“As part of the current NHS reforms the government should consider piloting a full-scale integrated care model which is proven to deliver better care for patients. This model would sit alongside the new Clinical Commissioning Groups as a way of driving up standards in a competitive environment.”
The report also recommends that patients should have access to their health records through an integrated IT system incorporating primary, community and acute information so they can manage their own care.