Integrated care toolkit will make joined-up services a reality

New resource will provide practical and user-friendly help to commissioners and providers

‘The toolkit is not a complex thing – it is practical, easy-to-use, and is designed to help people with the questions and problems they have.’ Photograph: Vera Berger/ Vera Berger/Corbis

The Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Collaborative have developed a toolkit to answer some of the pressing, practical questions facing those trying to plan and deliver localised person-centred care.

The challenges of integration are well known. The joining up of services is common sense in principle, but its effective implementation is another matter. Commissioners and providers are struggling to understand exactly which models of integrated service delivery are relevant to their area, and which ones will help them achieve the care improvement and financial targets they are facing.

Advice is plentiful, but what has been in short supply is practical help – as well as user-friendly methods for accessing information about the outcomes of particular interventions. The integrated care toolkit is designed to give this practical guidance and support to those facing the challenges of integration.

As part of the integrating care team, we have been working with the LGA on this toolkit for the past six months.

Aided by input from hundreds of professionals, service users and carers, we have been developing this practical resource to bring together the most relevant and recent experience of implementing integration, and to present it in a way that is easy to navigate and understand.

The toolkit comprises of six elements, each of which gives a different window onto the relevant content.

The core elements are a set of value cases. These are similar to business cases, but, in addition to demonstrating the financial justification for a particular approach, they take into account the broader social and user-benefits of fit-for-purpose service provision.

For example, the value case on the pioneering integration work that has been taking place in north-west London explores the results of the creation of multi-disciplinary healthcare groups to discuss each patient’s care.

These included a 15% reduction in non-elective admissions in over-75s and a decrease of 14% in emergency activity for targeted patient groups within inner north-west London. Not only do value cases like these provide evidence for the benefits of particular interventions, they also communicate the lessons learned from prior implemented schemes.

The many common themes and arguments in the value cases have been gathered together in a powerful overarching value case document. This is intended to help those trying to make the case for integration, by highlighting hard and fast examples of colleagues who have been on the same journey.

The benefits model is perhaps the most practical and interactive element of the whole toolkit. It gathers all the data on service benefits, broken down into the impact on different groups of people.

It allows local service designers to play around and get an initial understanding of the impact various models of care might have if they were applied to their own local population.

Other examples of practical support are the evidence review – a collection of evidence for what works in integration – and the initiatives map – a geographically searchable database of integration interventions – and a signposting tool which, again, is an easy way of finding useful information and evidence.

Andrew Webster, associate director of health and social care integration at the LGA, was a key contributor to the new resource.

Speaking at its launch, he said: “We know that there is a lot for people to take on at the moment, especially with the challenging time lines for the Better Care Fund submissions. But we want people to know that practical help is at hand.

“The toolkit is not a dry, complex thing – it is practical, easy-to-use, and is designed to help people with the actual questions and problems they have.”

He added: “We developed it with hundreds of professionals who need this support themselves, and we hope we have delivered something that will meet their needs. The initial feedback certainly suggests that people are finding it helpful already.”

Simon Morioka and Claire Kennedy are co-managing directors at PPL and senior advisers at Integrating Care