This paper reviews recent policy initiatives in England to achieve the closer integration of health and social care. This has been a policy goal of successive UK governments for over 40 years but overall progress has been patchy and limited. The coalition government has a new national framework for integrated care and variety of new policy initiatives including the 'pioneer' programme, the introduction of a new pooled budget--the 'Better Care Fund'--and a new programme of personal commissioning. Further change is likely as the NHS begins to develop new models of care delivery. There are significant tensions between these very different policy levers and styles of implementation. It is too early to assess their combined impact. Expectations that integration will achieve substantial financial savings are not supported by evidence. Local effort alone will be insufficient to overcome the fundamental differences in entitlement, funding and delivery between the NHS and the social care system. With a national election set to take place in May 2015, all political parties are committed to the integration of health and social care but clear evidence about the best means to achieve it is likely to remain as elusive as ever.
Keywords: Health care reform; Integrated care; Integration; Personal budgets; Social care reform.
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