The number of people in England who have health problems requiring both health and social care is increasing. For example, in the next 20 years, the percentage of people over 85 will double. This means there are likely to be more people with ‘complex health needs’ - more than one health problem - who require a combination of health and social care services.

Older man talking to nurse about medication

But the range of services is rarely fully integrated. For example, people are admitted to hospital, or they stay in hospital too long, when it would have been better for them to receive care at home. Sometimes people get the same service twice - from the NHS and social care organisations - or an important part of their care is missing.

This means patients do not get the joined-up services they need, leaving them at increased risk of not fully recovering and the consequences of further treatment. Health and care staff may miss opportunities to make things better for patients and service users, and taxpayers’ money could be used in more cost-effective ways.

The issues are magnified for rural residents, who live further away from healthcare services, with limited public transport. As such, it costs more to deliver care for rural communities, either through outreach services or for individuals to access centralised services by paying for transport.

The ACRE Network is supporting the Government’s commitment to provide more integrated health services. The Network’s experience and innovation has led to the development of a range of schemes that provide frontline support to help improve people’s access to services such as Community Agents and the Village Care Programme.