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Health and Social Care Integration

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 13 April 2021

We want health and social care to be joined up effectively, with the different parts of our system working together to meet people’s needs. The health and care White Paper sets out our plans for integrated care systems, which will not only join up local NHS organisations but strengthen collaboration among the health service, local authorities and others involved in social care.

One thing that will really help the integration of health and social care is the better use of technology and innovation, but one of the barriers we face is the sharing of information among different clinicians, general practitioners, hospitals and social care settings, so will my hon. Friend confirm that as part of the plans for better integration we are looking at how data and information can be shared much more effectively?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: interoperability is essential to harness the potential benefits of health and care data for individuals and to create a health and care system that is fit for the future. We are going to legislate to ensure more effective data sharing across the health and care system and will outline our plans in the upcoming data strategy for health and social care.

Despite the incredible challenges of the past year, neither the Government’s White Paper nor the Budget even mentioned social care. Health and care integration has been progressing in Scotland since 2014, and the Scottish Government have committed to developing a national care service and ensure equity throughout Scotland; will the Minister make such a commitment for England?

Actually, I have to disagree with the hon. Member: the White Paper does mention social care and includes several steps on the path to the reform of social care. We will bring forward further information about social care reforms later this year.

Integration and service improvement cannot be delivered without sufficient social care staff. The Scottish Government already fund the real living wage for social care staff in Scotland, have included them in the £500 thank-you bonus, and plan to standardise pay and training. Does the Minister not recognise that the only way to attract people to build a career in social care is by valuing care staff?

I agree with the hon. Member that it is essential that we value social care staff. Just as we have valued NHS staff during the pandemic, so we have rightly recognised the vital contribution of the social care workforce. We must continue to value our social care workforce, for which we plan to bring forward proposals as part of our social care reforms.