Developing a simple set of measures for local whole system working: outcomes, cost and use of resources supporting referral management

David Walton, Seraphim J. Rose Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – Whole system working is critical to improving health and social care services while using scarce resources more efficiently and this article aims to look at the urgent need to develop measures for it. It seeks to describe the development of a simple, practical, set of measures for benchmarking and analysing local use of key whole system resources as the basis for discussion and planning. Practical and usable tools are needed urgently as national measures are not available at present and key resource decisions need to be made now.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper looks at a simple framework for looking at integration in localities and some proposed measures as the basis for discussion. It describes the development and application of a simple, practical set of measures to use locally in the absence of a national set. It uses nationally available, comparable measures wherever possible to minimise work. It briefly describes how the comparative data enables localities to identify key differences in use of resources and outcomes and areas for improvement.

Findings – Taking a whole system, whole person approach and applying it across localities provides a useful framework to help local health and social care systems focus on improving patient outcomes while reducing unnecessary costs – particularly unnecessary use of high cost institutional care. The measures including the Audit Commission whole system measures identified key issues re different use of resources, costs and outcomes between localities. This article looks ahead to the implications of greater personalisation of services and the need to develop more effective information systems based on the individual patient which allow more rigorous measurement of service effectiveness including outcomes as well as activity.

Practical implications – In the absence of national measures of whole system integration, this paper describes how a simple, practical framework and measures were developed to analyse use of resources and identify key areas for improvement. It can be used by localities to provide a quick benchmark of use of resources and outcomes (especially whole system use of expensive institutional resources) to support value for money and service effectiveness work. It describes how it worked in practice and looks at how information systems could be further developed in line with personalisation to allow ongoing improvement based on individual outcomes, costs and service effectiveness.

Originality/value – This study describes the need to develop whole system measures to show the effectiveness of moves towards integration. In the absence of national measures, it describes the development of a simple set of local whole system outcome measures based on a framework based on recent work on whole system integration. The paper uses both health and social care evidence and summarises key elements that work. It shows how the measures have been applied in practice in localities as a first step in a local system improvement programme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalQuality in Ageing and Older Adults
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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