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Integration white paper introduces single digital care record for patients


By Jess Hacker
9 February 2022

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Patients will receive a ‘single digital care record’ under new plans set out in the Government’s integration white paper.

The blueprint, to be published in full this afternoon, will detail how Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are expected to work more closely with local authorities, social care, and the wider NHS.

According to the DHSC, patients are to be given a single digital record with which they can book appointments, order prescriptions, and contact their care providers.

Meanwhile, service providers will be able to save time directly accessing patient information.

Key integration plans

The key points expected to be announced in the white paper include:

  • More transparent data sharing between the NHS and local authorities
  • Linking GPs with the wider community
  • Focus on earlier intervention
  • Simpler communication with and access to services for patients
  • Closer working between hospitals and social care
  • Aligning NHS and local authority financial incentives

The DHSC said that, despite staff efforts, patients ‘too often’ have to navigate ‘complex and disjointed’ systems.

Its new plans are intended to ‘remove the burden from patients’, it said.

Bodies able to share data

To this end, the NHS and local authorities will be expected to more transparently share data on their performance.

Currently, local authorities cannot access all NHS data to make decisions about access to social care services.

‘An integrated system would allow the NHS to notify a local authority straight away if a person requires social care support,’ it said.

It is also expected that there will be a great focus placed on aligning the NHS’ and local authorities’ financial incentives and pooling budgets to help them use their resources more flexibly.

Additionally, the DHSC anticipates that integration between hospitals and social care would mean more specialist support becomes available to care home residents, which could in turn prevent some hospital admissions.

Plans will create joined up services

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the plans for better integration will support staff and stop patients falling through the gaps between services.

He said: ‘Our integration white paper is part of our wider plans to reform and recover the health and social care system, ensuring everyone gets the treatment and care they need, when and where they need it.’

Meanwhile, Mark Cubbon, NHS England chief delivery officer, said: ‘The pandemic has shown us what we can achieve when we work together, and joining up services across health, social care and the wider community is key to improving efficiency and giving our patients the best care possible.’

It comes a month after NHS England confirmed the target date to grant integrated care systems (ICSs) statutory footing would be pushed back three months to July 2022.

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