This week the NHS is celebrating partnership working and the benefits it brings for people and patients across the country. Here Dr Claire Fuller, Senior Responsible Officer for Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System, describes the importance of integrated care and what is happening in our area to make it a reality.

Today marks the start of NHS England’s Integrated Care in Action week, which an opportunity to celebrate the great work we have started, but also to reflect on how much there is still to do.

The NHS working alone, will only ever be able to improve someone’s health outcomes by 20%.

The remaining 80% is down to the ‘wider determinants of health’- housing, the environment, poverty, education; to truly create a healthier population we need to tackle all these elements and we can only do that by working in partnership.

Here in Surrey Heartlands, a big driver of change has been our ground-breaking devolution agreement with the national teams, including NHS England and NHS Improvement, to devolve more funding and accountability down to us at local level across both health and social care. This helps us focus our priorities on what we know we need to do locally, helping us make improvements more easily and more quickly. It also helps us join up health and social care to make decisions together.

A second crucial tool in our journey towards more integrated care is around multi-professional engagement – we have created the Surrey Heartlands Academy (a virtual network) which is bringing people together from across Surrey Heartlands to look at standardising practice. In other words, making sure we learn from each other’s best practice and removing any unwarranted variation in treatments, so local people, no matter where they live, have the opportunities to improve their health outcomes.

As a Surrey resident this is what matters to me, ensuring the care we provide is good enough for our families and friends. So when someone goes out to visit 92-year-old Mrs Smith, still living independently in her own home, it’s not important whether they are from community services, the mental health trust, the hospital Trust, social services, the voluntary sector or from the local GP federation or primary care network – what matters is that Mrs Smith gets the care she needs, when she needs it from a system that is completely joined up and focused on what’s best for her.

Over the course of this week we’ll be releasing some short videos that showcase integrated care in action around Surrey Heartlands. It is great to see so much work already going, from a walking football project with Surrey Council to an integrated scheme in Woking that enables children to be seen closer to home.

Having worked as a GP for over 25 years in Surrey, this is first time that I have seen all sectors of health and care come together with a genuine drive to make Surrey the best place to live and work.

I am proud of what we have achieved so far, but know that there is a lot more to come.