Faced with the dramatic pace of population ageing, the Shanghai municipal government launched a pilot programme in 2013 designed to address this and to strengthen ageing-in-place arrangements by providing basic in-home medical services for residents above the age of 80. Yet after a two-year trial run, the ‘Home-Based Medical Care Scheme for the Oldest-Old’ (HBMCSOO) policy remained significantly under-utilised despite the increasing demand for medical services. Our multi-disciplinary research team of social workers and anthropologists identified two key factors impeding the implementation of home-based medical care services: (a) the distortion of policy implementation and (b) the inadequate professionalisation of community-based elder-care workers. Based on our evaluation of the pilot programme, the Shanghai municipal government made several practical adjustments to improve the subsequent city-wide policy implemented in 2016. While these changes mostly focused on minor adjustments to improve in-home medical services for the oldest-old, they represent an encouraging first step towards our call for a holistic integrated care system whose design and delivery takes into account local political and social contexts, including existing institutional infrastructure and cultural expectations about care-giving responsibilities. The challenges of implementing Shanghai's HBMCSOO policy ultimately provide instructive lessons on best practices for integrating medical and social services in order to improve ageing-in-place measures in diverse local settings around the world.