Integrated primary care and social services for older adults with multimorbidity in England: a scoping review

BMC Geriatr. 2021 Dec 3;21(1):674. doi: 10.1186/s12877-021-02618-8.


Background: As the prevalence of older adults with multimorbidity increases, greater integration of services is necessary to manage the physical and psycho-social needs of this cohort. This study describes and summarises current evidence, clinical provision and progress towards integrated primary care and social services for older adults with multimorbidity in England.

Methods: A scoping review was conducted involving systematic searches of a range of electronic academic and policy databases. Articles were screened and extracted in duplicate by two independent reviewers. Data were extracted onto a charting sheet and thematic synthesis was used to summarise findings. Articles were included if published in English and related to primary care, social care and multimorbidity in older adults in England. Conceptually, the review was framed using the Rainbow Model of Integrated Care.

Results: The search yielded 7656 articles of which 84 were included. Three themes were identified: (1) a focus on individual level services rather than multi-level or multi-sector integration, with an increasing emphasis on the need to consider broader determinants of population health as critical to integrated care for older adults with multimorbidity; (2) the need for policymakers to allow time for integration to embed, to enable new structures and relationships to develop and mature; and (3) the inherent tension between top-down and bottom-up driven approaches to integrated care requires a whole-systems structure, while allowing for local flexibilities.

Conclusions: There is limited evidence of multi-level and multi-sector integration of services for older adults with multimorbidity in England. The literature increasingly acknowledges wider determinants of population health that are likely to require integration beyond primary care and social services. Improving clinical care in one or two sectors may not be as effective as simultaneously improving the organisation or design across services as one single system of provision. This may take time to establish and will require local input.

Keywords: England; Integrated care; Multimorbidity; Older adults.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Multimorbidity*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Social Support
  • Social Work*