Efforts to integrate health and social care in Scotland are moving slowly due partly to shortcomings in IT systems, according to a report by the country’s central auditor.
Audit Scotland has highlighted the issue as one of a number that are restraining progress in a new report on care integration. It says that overall there is a need for better collaboration, with attitudes to information sharing playing a part.
A section of the report says there is a “disjointedness” in the range of IT systems that facilitate the sharing of data. This makes it harder for health and care professionals to provide the best possible support, especially for people with multiple and complex conditions.
“Time and money are being spent on fixing local IT problems when national solutions should be found,” the report says, adding: “Local areas are spending time and money implementing solutions which may continue to be incompatible in the future.
“There is a need for a coordinated approach to the solution, which includes the need to consider a national, single solution for Scotland.”
Part of this would be developing a reliable communications infrastructure, which is needed particularly for rural areas.
It acknowledges, however, that the Scottish Government has announced plans for a new national digital platform to enable the sharing of real time data.
But it also points to other problems and a general need to improve the sharing of information, such as between GP practices and integration authorities (IAs), and between the IAs and the Information Services Division of NHS National Services Scotland.
There are also issues around data sharing protocols affecting national databases, gaps in data about care services, and the consistency of data produced by IAs.
The report is critical on a broad front about progress on integration. It says there have been some improvements, but that the relevant authorities need to show a stronger commitment to collaborative working.
Graham Sharp (pictured), chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “There are examples of integrated health and social care services making a positive difference to people’s lives, but these tend to be local and small scale. The potential for a profound and long term shift in the way health and social care services are delivered is clear, but there is still a long way to go.
“A collective effort from the Scottish Government, COSLA (Scotland’s local government association), NHS Boards, councils and the integration authorities is needed for health and social care integration to make a more meaningful difference to the people of Scotland.”
Image from Audit Scotland, Open Government Licence