Former health secretary calls for integrated care in digital age

In an era of ‘digital exchange and artificial intelligence’ there can be no reason why people using the health and care system should suffer from disconnected episodes rather than a single joined-up service.

Opening Confed18, NHS Confederation chair Stephen Dorrell said integrated care had been talked about for long enough, telling delegates: ‘It may have been unavoidable in the days of black and white television and fax machines. But there is no excuse for it in the era of digital exchange and artificial intelligence.

‘We sometimes think our task is to introduce new technology to support service delivery. But that is wrong; it is much more fundamental than that. Our task is constantly to reinvent our services to use the full range of resources available to us to meet the needs of our citizens.’

Dorrell, a former health secretary and current chairman of LaingBuisson, said failure to implement new working methods across traditional institutional boundaries ‘undermines the effectiveness of services – and undermines a commitment to principles of universal healthcare’.

To coincide with the conference, which opened today (Wednesday), a poll of 1,000 people by NHS Confederation suggests 77% of people either support or strongly support an increase in UK spending on public healthcare by 4% a year over the next 15 years.

The poll follows the publication of a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation – commissioned by the confederation – arguing that UK spending on healthcare will have to rise by at least 4% a year if services are to be improved.

Dorrell said: ‘Not 4% for the NHS and a squeeze local government – or a special fund to ease the pressures on social care. But 4% per annum for the NHS and 4% per annum for social care, year on year, between now and 2030.’

The confederation has launched a petition calling on the government to recognise the rising demand, underfunding and workforce crisis in the NHS and social care sector by committing to a long-term funding plan to 2035.

Confed18 closes tomorrow.