Barking reaps benefits of integration

Barking and Dagenham Council, east London, has
seen improvements in health following the integration of social
services and health care under one leader more than six months ago,
it has been claimed.

Julia Ross, director of social services since
1998, took up the joint post of chief executive of the primary care
trust in April this year.

Speaking at the Integrating Health and Social
Care conference in Barking, Ross said there had been “real” and
“immediate” health improvements in access, teenage pregnancy and
coronary heart disease. In addition staff felt they were doing a
better job and users believed services were better, she said.

Ross spends around 80 per cent of her time on
primary care and the rest on social services, still sitting on the
council’s management board and the executive committee.

The PCT, which now covers social care, has
dual governance and accountability to both the local authority and
the health service.

The PCT board is chaired by a local councillor
and there is a pooled budget of up to £168m.

Ross said that a key achievement had been to
respond “collaboratively” to delayed discharges. When she first
arrived three years ago, trying to deal with delayed discharges
across acute and primary care and social services was a “very
tricky problem” because it felt as if they were in three different
camps. But the situation was different now, she said.

The conference also heard that the government
would only continue its support for the integration of health and
social services if the restructuring delivered its priorities for
the NHS.

Social care consultant Tom Noon from
consultancy firm Cordis Bright said the priorities of central
government were to significantly improve the performance of the
NHS, to reduce the numbers of older people in hospital who could be
moved out, and to reduce the number of older people entering
hospital in the first place, he claimed.

Noon added that while health and social
services were the cornerstone of a strategy aimed at supporting the
independence of vulnerable people, it could only be delivered by
working with housing, education, regeneration and the independent

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