The Care Services Improvement Partnership's five networks publish a range of material that sets out to inform and advise people working in health and social care on a range of issues, including integration, personalisation, telecare and housing. Chris Mahony gives an overview of one recent publication below

A Practical Guide to Integrated Working - integrated care network

Some major policy aims first set out in December’s Putting People First mean relevant best practice guides need updating.

Putting People First set out a shared vision and committed central and local government and the NHS to transform adult social care, working in partnership with voluntary agencies, social enterprises and the commercial sectors.

In response, the Care Service Improvement Partnership's integrated care network published A PracticalGuide to Integrated Working. It is aimed at professionals and managers across health and social care and related fields and updates the 2004 publication.

Integration is central to the Department of Health's agenda for 2008-09.

The new guide makes it clear that new cultures and methods of working together are key to more effective health and social care services. It outlines some of the central challenges experienced in local care economies and offers a new approach towards the true integration of health and care services.

It also explores the policy background and changes arising from the government's desire to see more coherent and co-ordinated health and social care. It also offers plenty of practical advice, along with case studies of what has worked (and in a few cases what has not worked).

True integrated working requires people and teams from diverse organisations and backgrounds to work together to deliver greater service improvements and effective outcomes for the benefit of their communities.

Putting People First stated: "Ultimately, every locality should seek to have a single community-based support system focused on the health and well-being of the local population… [This will bind] together local government, primary care, community-based health provision, public health, social care and the wider issues of housing, employment/benefits advice and education/training."

Although that process will continue to evolve, it is clear that the baton for transforming our care services through integration and personalisation is now held by those delivering the services.

Key messages

Among the keys to successful integration examined by the guide are:

  • high and similar levels of commitment across organisations;

  • local organisational stability;

  • perceived financial equity among partners;

  • senior managers with vision, skills and time to develop the partnership.

The guide identifies the challenges, but it also makes the case for overcoming those challenges by suggesting the benefits of integration for service users. These include:

  • making access easier;

  • improving the speed of response to identified needs;

  • simplifying decision-making processes by involving fewer people;

  • eliminating buck-passing;

  • ensuring a more creative use of resources;

  • reducing communication failure.

All this should help boost another key initiative in the new policy agenda: giving service users more control over their care and the greater personalisation of services.

A practical guide to integrated working is available free at www.integratedcarenetwork.gov.uk/icn/ or on request by emailing mbicn@dh.gsi.gov.uk

Find out more about the networks at www.csip.org.uk