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Why Does the NHS Find it so Hard to Integrate Information?

Good businesses integrate their systems. In good businesses information flows to the right people at the right time so that customers get the right service when they need it; suppliers get clear instructions; and options and pathways are clear to all.

Simple really. In most successful businesses integration of information is standard, and an assumed quality of a successful venture.

Sadly, in our experience at Sirius, the NHS can sometimes fall far short of this standard.

This is surprising. Integration is the big issue across the health and social care system at the moment. Organisations have merged over the last few years, with more on the way. There is constant talk of the need to integrate primary and secondary care; health and social care; and of course budgets. Integration is the new buzz word, the idea that we are told will improve the care we give and save the money we need.

The Five Year Forward View for the NHS set out by Simon Stevens just the other week emphasises the importance of joint working and partnership. The plans describes the benefits of allowing GP practices to join forces into single organisations that provide a broader range of services including those traditionally provided in hospital; and of creating new organisations that provide both GP and hospital services together with mental health, community and social care. None of this can happen without coordinated, integrated information systems.

However, it all starts with information, and if we cannot effectively integrate our information then we have no chance of going further. If we can’t sort the system out so everyone who needs to know does know, then all our attempts at integration will fail.

So why does the NHS find it so hard to integrate information? Is it about power, or organisational politics, or simple lack of ability or resource?

We have been looking into this at Sirius and will be publishing a white paper on the subject in the next few weeks. The experiences our partners have had time and time again show that if we can crack this problem, then we have the chance of making real, fast progress on many of the other issues that we need to address as an NHS.

We need an integrated NHS. Patients, clinicians and carers need integrated information.

If you would like to see the paper drop us an email at

Sirius is at the EHI Live Conference in Birmingham this week. Come and see us on stand F42.

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