NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, has announced that £200 million funding has been approved for 29 Integrated Personal Commissioning (IPC) “vanguard” programmes. These are part of NHS England’s wider five-year initiative to break down the traditional barriers between hospitals, GPs, mental health and community services, and to change the way in which patient care is provided. 

The initiative could lead to more services being available at GP practices rather than in hospitals and more NHS care provided in care homes. It should also reduce the number of patients visiting oversubscribed A&E departments. 

There will be two main models of care: GP-led ‘multi-speciality community providers (MCPs)’ and hospital-led ‘primary and acute care systems (PACS)’. The new models will employ a mix of primary and secondary care staff to deal with commonly encountered conditions such as diabetes, dementia and mental illness. Some models will have ‘social prescribing teams’ who will be able to refer patients to voluntary organisations and local authority services. 

An example of this is the MCP model which has been approved in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In this model, a GP will be able to refer a patient to a social prescribing team who will then identify the appropriate service to provide the patient with the correct care or treatment from potentially 1,100 voluntary organisations in the community. 

Arran Macleod, an associate in the clinical negligence team, says: “Mr Stevens has said that 'the starting gun had been fired' on a new way of providing care. Actually, it hasn’t. The NHS has been trying to integrate services within the community since 2009, when 16 integrated pilots were established, and again in 2013, when a similar scheme was championed by the coalition government. 

“Integrated care is an excellent idea to encourage patients to visit their GPs and receive local treatment rather than attend oversubscribed A&E departments. But it is important that the schemes are maintained and expanded throughout the UK to areas where the relationship between primary care and community services is not established. By doing so, patients throughout England will have better access to care and treatment.