Improved joint working between health and social care to reduce emergency hospital admissions for pensioners could help save £2bn annually from NHS budgets in England, the Care Quality Commission said today.
The Care Quality Commission’s first annual State of Care report to parliament said the saving could be achieved if all local areas reduced levels of emergency admissions and resulting bed days for people aged over 75 to the level of the best performers.
However, it said this would require a “considerable redesign” of services to integrate health and social care.
The report is the first by a regulator to analyse data across health and social care.
The CQC praised improvements in the number of people being supported to live independently at home, and in access to services to prevent hospital admissions and help people return home from hospital more quickly.
But it warned that the national picture of improvement masked considerable variation locally and that there needed to be a major acceleration in joining up health and social care services.
Among other headline statistics the CQC said that:
• There is a three-fold variation in the extent to which councils place older people in long-term residential care.
• There is a 30-fold variation in the numbers of people whose discharge from hospital is delayed meaning that in some areas expensive hospital-based treatment is over-used.
CQC’s interim chair, Jo Williams, warned: “We all know that the context is changing. Trends such as increasing demand and rising expectations will be exacerbated by pressure on finances.
“That means we cannot go on as we are. To cope, we need some radical changes in the way that we organise and deliver services.”
Reacting to the report Jo Webber, the NHS Confederation’s deputy director of policy, said: “Councils and NHS trusts recognise the role they play in providing a more integrated model of health and social care.
“As more care is moved into community settings, it is crucial to maintain effective communications between health and social care workers to keep the number of unnecessary hospital admissions to a minimum and ensure appropriate safeguarding measures are being carried out.”
The CQC today also published a five-year strategic plan, which sets out what it wants to achieve for people using health and social care services and how it will go about it.