Integrating primary care and social services for older adults with multimorbidity: A qualitative study

Br J Gen Pract. 2021 May 17;BJGP.2020.1100. doi: 10.3399/BJGP.2020.1100. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Growing demand from an ageing population, chronic preventable disease and multimorbidity has resulted in complex health and social care needs requiring more integrated services. Integrating primary care with social services could more efficiently utilise resources, and improve experiences for patients, their families and carers. There is limited evidence on progress including key barriers and drivers of integration to inform large-scale national change.

Aim: To elicit stakeholder views on drivers and barriers of integrated primary care and social services. and highlight opportunities for successful implementation.

Design and setting: A qualitative interview study.

Method: Semi-structured interviews with maximum variation sampling to capture stakeholder views across services and professions.

Results: Thirty-seven interviews were conducted across England including GPs, nurses, social care staff, commissioners, local government, voluntary and private sectors, patients and carers. Drivers of integration included groups of like-minded individuals supported by good leadership, expanded interface roles to bridge gaps between systems and co-location of services. Barriers included structural and interdisciplinary tension between professions, organisational self-interest and challenges in record-sharing.

Conclusions: Drivers and barriers to integration identified in other contexts are also present in primary care and social services. Benefits of integration are unlikely to be realised if these are not addressed in the design and execution of new initiatives. Efforts should go beyond local and professional level change to include wider systems and policy-level initiatives. This will support a more systems-wide approach to integrated care reform, which is necessary to meet the complex and growing needs of an ageing multimorbid population.

Keywords: Integration; Primary care; Social services.