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Health Policy. 2003 Aug;65(2):139-51.

Breaking down barriers: integrating health and care services for older people in England.

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  • 1National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester, M13 9PL Manchester, UK.


Like many other post-industrial societies, England is facing demographic and political pressures to reduce the fragmentation of services for older people. Moreover, current government policies emphasise collaboration and 'partnership', particularly between health and social care services. Recently, two new policy initiatives have enabled the full integration of services to take place, involving formerly separate health and social care organisations-between family doctors (general practitioners) and community health services, and between health and social services organisations. Both initiatives also allow the pooling of previously separate funding streams. This paper presents findings from evaluations of these two initiatives. Drawing on this evidence, the paper concludes that structural integration can transform preoccupations over narrow sectoral responsibilities and boundaries to a 'whole systems' paradigm of service planning and delivery. However, major internal barriers to integration may remain: these include professional domains and identities, and differential power relationships between newly integrated services and professionals. Moreover, the success of these new horizontal, inter-organisational arrangements is profoundly influenced by the wider policy environment and by vertical relationships with national government. Together, these pressures exclude the voices of older people, and therefore call into question whether the considerable organisational upheaval of service integration will be able to deliver the changes valued by older people themselves.

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