Torbay integrated care project

Posted on Thursday 7th January 2010

A new report from the University of Birmingham shows that an integrated care project in Torbay is delivering services closer to home.  The project focuses on services for older people and has avoided the need for many hospital admissions through health and social care services working closely together.

The report's author, Chris Ham, Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University, says:

'Torbay is a living example of the model of care the government wants to see developed across England.  By bringing health and social care together, pooling budgets, and setting up integrated teams of front line staff, it has been possible to reduce the use of hospital beds and provide more services to people in their own homes.  In an area in which there is a much higher proportion of people aged 65 and over than in England as a whole, these are remarkable achievements'.

Torbay is one of three areas that have been working to learn from Kaiser Permanente, a leading United States health maintenance organisation.  All three areas have adapted Kaiser Permanente's integrated care principles, and the results in Torbay include:

  • A reduction in the average number of daily occupied hospital beds used from 750 in 1998/90 to 528 in 2008/09.
  • For people aged 85 and over, Torbay uses only 47% of bed days for people experiencing two or more emergency hospital admissions compared with similar areas.
  • Torbay is one of the best performing areas in England in the use of hospital beds and day surgery according to independent analysis conducted by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

The importance of these results is that they provide hard evidence of the benefits of integrated care.

At a time when the government is arguing that the NHS should place the emphasis on avoiding hospital admissions and providing more services closer to home, Torbay's experience should be used to bring about improvements in care across the NHS, Chris Ham says:

'The time is now right to go beyond the limited scope of the projects the government has set up and support integration of services on a more ambitious scale.  Torbay shows that a sustained commitment to integration can deliver many of the objectives the government is seeking to pursue.  Integration needs to be placed at the heart of the health policy agenda in the next stage of NHS reform'.

HSMC Policy Paper 6: Working together for health: Achievements and challenges in the Kaiser NHS Beacon Sites Programme by Chris Ham, published by the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham (pdf; opens in new window)