Why are relationships integral to health and social care integration?

Written by: Georgina Charlton, Development Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 08/06/2020

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A round up of the Integration Insights series looking at the importance of relationships.

Over the last month the Integration Support team has been focusing on Relationships through our new series Integration Insights. Relationships are key to the transformation of the health and social care system, identified by both Audit Scotland and the Ministerial Strategic Group for Health and Community Care as a central feature to the success of integration in their respective publications “Health and Social Care Integration: Update on progress” (this link will take you away from our website) and “Health and Social Care integration: progress review” (this link will take you away from our website).

“Attitudes and relationships are more important than anything else” – Third and Independent Sectors as Partners

But why are relationships fundamental to the success of health and social care integration? In the context of integrated health and social care, relationships are a broad concept. They involve Scottish Government, Local Authorities, NHS Health Boards, members of Integration Joint Boards, Health and Social Care Partnerships, the third and independent sectors, the community and individuals; all interacting with one another directly, but also as a complex system.

Relationships are the mechanism by which these partners are able to navigate this diverse landscape and form working partnerships. They develop the trust and respect which allow partners to be confident in collaborating together.

 “… it works best if the partnerships are based on mutual respect for each other’s professional roles, and a joint commitment to putting people who use services at the heart of the support or intervention.” – We Need to Talk about Integration

They lead to an increased understanding of each other’s areas of expertise, their strengths and the value they add to the health and social care sector, informing who to involve and when.

“Strong relationships between health and social care, the Third Sector Interface, independent sector, housing, public health, Vibrant Communities, the Health Council, the ALLIANCE, and other partners generate ownership of priorities and actions” – We Need to Talk about Integration

These characteristics of relationships then allow different organisations, systems and individuals to work together to develop services which meet the needs of the people who access them more effectively than they would be able to alone.

“We must remember that integration is not just about services; it is about building relationships and teams to better serve those who access them” – Integration in Action – Six themes of integration

Developing integrated services which are seamless at the point of use requires relationships to be developed and maintained between all partners in health and social care – including the third and independent sector, communities, carers and people who access services. These positive and supportive relationships create an environment where integrated health and social care can succeed, by enabling partners to share knowledge, collaborate and work together as equals to create innovative services and systems.

As a part of the Integration Insights series on Relationships, and others, the ALLIANCE has produced a number of pieces which analyse, discuss and describe the features of relationships to explore this in more depth:

For integrated health and social care to be truly successful it is necessary to go beyond building and strengthening the relationships which are already in place, and to reach out and involve new partners, especially to those individuals and communities who are under-represented in our current systems. In recognition of this, and its particular significance as we all begin to look to the future and consider the “New Reality”, Integration Insights will next look at the importance of involving individuals through the theme of Engagement.

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