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A systematic review of integrated working between care homes and health care services

Sue L Davies1, Claire Goodman1*, Frances Bunn1, Christina Victor2, Angela Dickinson1, Steve Iliffe3, Heather Gage4, Wendy Martin2 and Katherine Froggatt5

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, AL10 9AB, UK

2 School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, Middlesex UB8 3PH, UK

3 Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College London, NW3 2PF, UK

4 Department of Economics, University of Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK

5 Institute of Health Research, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:320  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-320

Published: 24 November 2011



In the UK there are almost three times as many beds in care homes as in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals. Care homes rely on primary health care for access to medical care and specialist services. Repeated policy documents and government reviews register concern about how health care works with independent providers, and the need to increase the equity, continuity and quality of medical care for care homes. Despite multiple initiatives, it is not known if some approaches to service delivery are more effective in promoting integrated working between the NHS and care homes. This study aims to evaluate the different integrated approaches to health care services supporting older people in care homes, and identify barriers and facilitators to integrated working.


A systematic review was conducted using Medline (PubMed), CINAHL, BNI, EMBASE, PsycInfo, DH Data, Kings Fund, Web of Science (WoS incl. SCI, SSCI, HCI) and the Cochrane Library incl. DARE. Studies were included if they evaluated the effectiveness of integrated working between primary health care professionals and care homes, or identified barriers and facilitators to integrated working. Studies were quality assessed; data was extracted on health, service use, cost and process related outcomes. A modified narrative synthesis approach was used to compare and contrast integration using the principles of framework analysis.


Seventeen studies were included; 10 quantitative studies, two process evaluations, one mixed methods study and four qualitative. The majority were carried out in nursing homes. They were characterised by heterogeneity of topic, interventions, methodology and outcomes. Most quantitative studies reported limited effects of the intervention; there was insufficient information to evaluate cost. Facilitators to integrated working included care home managers' support and protected time for staff training. Studies with the potential for integrated working were longer in duration.


Despite evidence about what inhibits and facilitates integrated working there was limited evidence about what the outcomes of different approaches to integrated care between health service and care homes might be. The majority of studies only achieved integrated working at the patient level of care and the focus on health service defined problems and outcome measures did not incorporate the priorities of residents or acknowledge the skills of care home staff. There is a need for more research to understand how integrated working is achieved and to test the effect of different approaches on cost, staff satisfaction and resident outcomes.