Regulating and inspecting integrated health and social care in the UK: scoping the literature

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Background: The integration of care, particularly across the health and social care sectors, has been a long-standing policy objective in the UK. We sought to scope the evidence related to the regulation and inspection of integrated care.

Objective(s): To identify and classify published material that could potentially address four key questions:
1. What models of regulation and inspection of integrated care have been proposed? (Including approaches taken in other countries)
2. What evidence is available on the effectiveness of such models?
3. What are the barriers and enablers of effective regulation and inspection of integrated care?
4. Can barriers to effective regulation and inspection be overcome without legislative change?

Design: Rapid scoping review.

Publication type and focus: Both empirical and non-empirical publications related to the regulation and inspection of integrated care were included.
Setting: Publications focused on the integration of health and social care services, or provision delivered across other settings/sectors by different professional groups working together.

Outcomes: Empirical studies reporting on any outcome relevant to the regulation and/or inspection of integrated care. Non-empirical publications focusing on any relevant issue including proposed models of regulation or outcome frameworks.

Data sources: A targeted search of five databases was undertaken. Additionally, we conducted supplementary searches of the websites of key organisations and searched for other grey literature using the advanced search function of Google. Key contacts were also approached, and a request made for relevant documents.

Review methods: The title and abstracts of 5380 records were screened and a total of 166 publications were included. Documents were coded based on key characteristics, and a descriptive summary of the literature produced. No attempt was made to assess the quality or synthesise the findings of the retrieved evidence.

Out of the 166 included publications, 71 were identified from database searches and 95 were included from supplementary website searches.
While there were records that could be classified as relevant to one or more of the research questions identified through the stakeholder consultation, there was a notable absence of evidence relating to (a) effectiveness of regulatory/inspection strategies and (b) professional regulation.

Conclusions and future work
The evidence base relating to the regulation or inspection of integrated care is relatively small.
There may be an opportunity to synthesise some of the existing views and experience data on system regulation and inspection identified in a more formal systematic review.
However, before a useful evidence base can be developed, policy makers and researchers need to agree what constitutes ‘effective’ regulation, how this can be measured, and which study designs are most appropriate for evaluation. Related questions about what constitutes ‘successful’ integration of care should also be taken into account when planning such research.
While potentially useful reforms have been proposed, empirical evidence in relation to professional regulation appears particularly scarce. Organisations responsible for regulating professionals might therefore consider incorporating some form of evaluation into any planned strategic reforms.

The degree of focus on integration or regulation was a difficult criterion to apply with strict consistency.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNIHR Service Delivery and Organisation programme
Commissioning bodyNational Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
Number of pages141
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

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