A new network to drive the integration agenda forward


Historical divisions between hospitals and family doctors, between physical and mental health, and between NHS and council services, have resulted in too many people experiencing disjointed care. All too often, it has been those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and communities who have borne the brunt of disjointed care delivery, experiencing worse health outcomes than others.

Integrating both health and care has become a central mission both for the government and the NHS, with a clear focus on recently established integrated care systems (ICSs) as the driver of change.

Having been in development since 2018, July 2022 will see ICSs take up new statutory footing, providing a legal obligation to deliver joined up care and arrange services along a place-based approach. This will help ensure that decisions about how services are arranged should be made as closely as possible to those who use them. For most people their day-to-day health and care needs will be met locally in the town or district where they live or work. Partnership in these ‘places’ is therefore an important building block of integration, often in line with long-established local authority boundaries.

Yet the formal legal constitution of ICSs and their underlying new structures and governance, underpinned by integrated care boards (ICBs), can only be the start of a journey towards a fully realised vision of integrated care. With ICSs soon to be legally independent entities, the focus must now turn to their decision-making processes, and how they choose to adapt their services to meet local population needs.

Within this decision making will come the opportunity for more agile and rapid procurement processes, that allow for a more collaborative approach. Already the Department of Health has sought to support ICSs in their decisions, and has recently conducted a consultation on a new approach to arranging services – the Provider Selection Regime – which should make it easier to develop stable collaboration and to reduce some of the costs associated with the current procurement rules.

The government’s Integration White Paper: driving digital change in ICSs

Further to ICSs being established in law, the government’s Integration White Paper, published on 9 February 2022, goes further in ascribing a future strategic direction for ICSs and sets out a roadmap for better integration of services.

ICBs are expected to agree a plan for embedding population health management capabilities and ensuring these are supported by the necessary data and digital infrastructure, such as shared datasets and digital interventions. ICSs will use population health management (PHM) to help deliver personalised and predictive care based on an individual’s risk – which will be determined based upon an individual’s wider determinants of health.

Real-time insights from aggregated data will be crucial to achieving success in the fields of multi-disciplinary working, clinical decision support and waiting list management, at the same time as ensuring new diagnostic centres in the community can become a real success.

The Department of Health has also set out in the white paper an ‘ICS first’ approach, which will encourage organisations within an ICS to use the same digital systems, this will provide care teams with accurate and timely data, encouraging ease of information sharing. The department has set out a goal of 80 per cent adoption of digital social care records among CQC-registered social care providers by March 2024. To achieve this, ICSs must work with partners to drive adoption. Digital investment plans are expected to be finalised by June 2022, which include the steps being taken locally to support digital inclusion.

While more than 60 per cent of NHS trusts have made good progress into digitisation, with 21 per cent now digitally mature (as set out in the What Good Looks Like Framework), and only 10 per cent continuing to rely heavily on paper, the picture is often much more challenging in social care. Only 40 per cent of social care providers have electronic care records, and this is only improving slowly, at around three per cent per year. The Integration White Paper outlines a plan for adult social care that will ensure within six months of providers having an operational digital social care record in place, that staff are able to access and contribute to their local shared care record. Work is also underway to enable citizens to be able to amend their shared care records.

With these clear ambitions now set out in the Integration White Paper, there is a clear need to link policy ambition with the reality of enabling healthcare providers to deliver care within new ICS structures. As facilitators of joined up care delivery, ICSs will not be able to improve health outcomes without working closely with partners who share their vision of integration.

Integration can only be achieved by working alongside organisations with expertise in delivering patient management records and improved data collection methods – as well as with the pharmaceutical and health technology communities to deliver improved early-stage diagnostics and early access to treatments and therapies.

It is indeed these four areas of focus that represent the greatest opportunity both in the short and long term for ICSs to deliver real population health improvements in their local areas:

  • The future of healthcare data and the single patient record
  • The digital provision of healthcare
  • The improvement of diagnostics
  • The enhanced access to treatment and therapies

While the priorities for each ICS will rightly vary depending on the local patient needs and wider demographic demands, there is now a clear need to establish where common interests between ICSs exist, in order to enhance best practice. If ICSs are truly to become the benchmark of healthcare integration, then their own standards and performance will be monitored at a national level. It will therefore be incumbent for every ICS to engage fully in the wider policy debate about how they can deliver on the modernisation of healthcare through data, digital, treatments and technology. A wider forum is needed to help instruct ICSs on the right pathways to take for the future.

Public Policy Projects (PPP) has, for 25 years, been at the forefront of the healthcare policy debate; as an independent policy institute chaired by former Health Secretary Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell, it is recognised as a leading policy organisation that works with thought leaders across both health and social care, pharmaceuticals and more recently genomics. PPP has made the policy framework around the provision of integrated services a central mission of its work, and is responsible for publication of the Integrated Care Jounral.

ICJ brings together leaders in health, social care, local government, policy and research to engage with the latest insights and analysis surrounding the future of health and social care in the UK. Content is produced by and for the very leaders tasked with delivering joined up care across the country – covering every facet of ICS development.

To spearhead its outcomes-based approach to content, ICJ has recently established an Editorial Advisory Board. The board oversees content production pipeline, ensuring that our articles are insightful, practical and credible. The board is made up of some the country’s leading health and care experts and features system leaders at the very forefront of UK integrated care.

As part of its policy work for 2022, PPP is now seeking to establish a new Integrated Care Network which, alongside Integrated Care Jounral, will help provide ICS leaders with the policy guidance and support to make the best decisions for achieving improved patient health outcomes. PPP has already hosted a number of ICS related events, including a recent roundtable alongside IQVIA.

The start of this new Integrated Care Network work will begin with an ‘Integrated Futures’ roundtable series, beginning this Spring 2022, to mark the formal adoption of ICSs into law.

As part of the ‘Integrated Futures’ series, PPP will organise four roundtables focusing on the core areas of partnership between ICSs and healthcare providers which can deliver the greatest impact and benefit:

  • The future of healthcare data and the single patient record
  • The digital provision of healthcare
  • The improvement of diagnostics
  • The enhanced access to treatment and therapies

These roundtables will bring together both ICS representatives and leaders, together with healthcare partners at the forefront of working with ICSs to deliver on better care through innovation and improved access to data, digital technologies and enhanced treatments and therapies.

The Integrated Futures series will seek to position PPP as the forum for the high quality exchange of ideas and future policy, with those ideas intended to influence both NHS strategy and ICS leaders. As such, this will be an important forum for companies and organisations to be involved in, at a time when the future direction of ICSs both at a local and national level is still to be fully established.