Developing integrated health and social care services for older persons in Europe

Int J Integr Care. 2004;4:e10. doi: 10.5334/ijic.107. Epub 2004 Sep 3.

Abstract

Purpose: This paper is to distribute first results of the EU Fifth Framework Project 'Providing integrated health and social care for older persons-issues, problems and solutions' (PROCARE-http://www.euro.centre.org/procare/). The project's first phase was to identify different approaches to integration as well as structural, organisational, economic and social-cultural factors and actors that constitute integrated and sustainable care systems. It also served to retrieve a number of experiences, model ways of working and demonstration projects in the participating countries which are currently being analysed in order to learn from success-or failure-and to develop policy recommendations for the local, national and European level.

Theory: The paper draws on existing definitions of integrated care in various countries and by various scholars. Given the context of an international comparative study it tries to avoid providing a single, ready-made definition but underlines the role of social care as part and parcel of this type of integrated care in the participating countries.

Methods: The paper is based on national reports from researchers representing ten organisations (university institutes, consultancy firms, research institutes, the public and the NGO sector) from 9 European countries: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK. Literature reviews made intensive use of grey literature and evaluation studies in the context of at least five model ways of working in each country.

Results: As a result of the cross-national overview an attempt to classify different approaches and definitions is made and indicators of relative importance of the different instruments used in integrating health and social care services are provided.

Conclusions: The cross-national overview shows that issues concerning co-ordination and integration of services are high on the agenda in most countries. Depending on the state of service development, various approaches and instruments can be observed. Different national frameworks, in particular with respect to financing and organisation, systemic development, professionalisation and professional cultures, basic societal values (family ethics), and political approaches have to be taken into account during the second phase of PROCARE during which transversal and transnational analysis will be undertaken based on an in-depth analysis of two model ways of working in each country.

Discussion: Far from a European vision concerning integrated care, national health and social care systems remain-at best-loosely coupled systems that are facing increasing difficulties, given the current challenges, in particular in long-term care for older persons: increasing marketisation, lack of managerial knowledge (co-operation, co-ordination), shortage of care workers and a general trend towards down-sizing of social care services continue to hamper the first tentative pathways towards integrated care systems.