CCN Blogs | 20 June 2017
The Government is currently consulting on its modern Industrial Strategy. The strategy rightly emphasises the need for Britain to become a more innovative economy, identifying innovation as a vital driver of economic growth and productivity improvement.
But if the strategy is to truly deliver on its potential, the same spirit of innovation needs to be applied not just in industry, but also in public services.
There is a huge untapped opportunity to improve public services by innovating in how they are designed and delivered – and at the core of this is better integration. Integration is a popular buzzword in local government circles, but what exactly does it mean?
Integration means moving towards public services that are designed around users, not organisational silos. To take a topical example, it is increasingly clear that there needs to be one system for health and care, with greater emphasis on prevention, alongside more effective signposting and partnership working with the community, voluntary and private sectors.
To support the Industrial Strategys ambition of driving growth across all regions of the country, we need to integrate local employment, skills and health provision, with a focus on meeting local outcomes and targets. This will enable closer links between economic development opportunities and local skills requirements, driving the strategic development of employment services tailored to a local region. Developing skills and getting people back into the workforce will be vital if we are to ensure that everyone benefits from and can contribute to the Strategys goals.
So how do we make this integration happen? A key enabler will be increased sharing of services for common support functions such as HR, payroll, ICT, finance and procurement. Rather than having the constraints and financial liability of owning and managing the assets associated with these functions, local authorities and public bodies will be better placed to meet fast changing requirements more effectively by purchasing them instead as a flexible service.
Another enabler will be better exploitation of digital technology. Citizens are increasingly demanding digital access to services but at the moment this opportunity is not being maximised, with no standard approach across services. This leads to delays, duplication and wasted effort as citizens are passed through multiple channels and teams, at a time when demand for services is only increasing.
The increasing adoption of digital technology and significant investment in infrastructure has also brought new opportunities to businesses, communities and organisations. These opportunities will drive growth and inclusion but community engagement support is needed to increase awareness and enable digital technology to be fully exploited.
Better use of data will also play a very important role. Local authorities are particularly rich in data but are they as effective at using this data to inform their strategy and delivery as they could be? Through effective insight and analytics, we can better determine citizens needs both now and in the future, allowing us to redesign and integrate services around changing behaviours and expectations. For example, data and analytics can play a vital role in health and social care – anticipating care problems, assessing needs and suggesting the intervention most likely to be effective.
Finally, integration will only come about through stronger partnerships and collaboration. To continue meeting public expectations of services in this tough financial climate, it will be essential to draw on the very best thinking, whether those ideas come from a private company, a community group or a local authority. What matters is what works, and no one has a monopoly on wisdom.
Developing truly integrated public services will be a huge challenge, requiring brave leadership and a major shift in mind-set. But if we seize the opportunity before us, British innovation can lead the way not just in industry, but also in public services.
by Lesley Holt, Solution SME, Business Development, Local & Regional Government, Serco