BMA Scotland in warning on health & social care integration

Additional resources will probably be required as a result of plans to link health and social care, doctors’ leaders have warned.

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland, also said much of the detail about plans to transform care “remains undetermined”.

He was speaking as the BMA published a new paper making a number of recommendations on how health and social care could be better integrated.

It is calling on health boards and councils not to “see integration as a cost-saving exercise” and instead have an “honest debate about what resources are required and available to provide services in hospitals and the community”.

New legislation which should see the two sectors work more closely together was approved at Holyrood last month.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said then that the changes in the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Bill should ensure “joined up seamless health and social care provision that will improve people’s lives”.

But the BMA paper said there were a ” number of workforce issues which must be addressed if integration is to be successful”.

It said GP workload had “r eached saturation point”, adding that any extra requirements “must be properly resourced and matched with an increase in capacity”.

Hospital doctors are ” working under increasing pressure of workload, affected by the number of unfilled consultant vacancies and reduced nursing numbers” the BMA said, stressing that for consultants to help develop better links with the social care sector their contracts must include time for them to do this.

The BMA also said “a dditional medical posts must be developed and properly resourced to meet changing demand and to deliver more care in the community” as part of the change.

Dr Keighley said: “F or most doctors working in hospitals and communities across Scotland their priority is to avoid preventable hospital admissions of frail and elderly people and to overcome the barriers that prevent them returning home. These barriers are often created by a lack of social care support in the community.

“While the plans to integrate services are welcomed by doctors, they are likely to require additional resources in order to increase capacity in the community and in primary care.”

He added while the legislation had ” set out the framework for integration, much of the detail remains undetermined”.

Dr Keighley continued: “It is acknowledged that doctors are central to the success of good strategic local planning and we want to make sure that their involvement and influence is genuine and meaningful.”

He said it was important that NHS boards ” do not rip up existing good practice and instead look to local communities, NHS services, local authorities and within the third sector, to see what is working well and where success can be built on and shared”.