For more than a decade the English NHS has pursued integrated care through three national pilot programmes. The independent evaluators of these programmes here identify several common themes that inform the development of integrated care.
The three pilot programmes shared the aim of better coordination between hospital and community-based health services and between health and social care. Each programme recruited local pilot sites that designed specific interventions to support inter-professional and inter-organisational collaboration.
The paper states that the pilots were highly heterogenous and results varied both within and between the three programmes. While staff were generally positive about their achievements, pilots had mixed success especially in reducing unplanned hospital admissions. Common facilitators to achieving pilots’ objectives included effective senior leadership and shared values, simple interventions and additional funding.
Barriers included short timescales, poor professional engagement, information and data sharing problems, and conflicts with changing national policy.
The policy paper also recorded that there was little stable or shared understanding of what ‘integrated care’ meant resulting in different practices and priorities. An increasing focus on reducing unplanned hospital use among national sponsors created a mismatch in expectations between local and national actors.
This policy paper concludes that the pilots in all three national programmes made some headway against their objectives but were limited in their impact on unplanned hospital admissions.