Integrated care systems, or ICSs, are driving improvements in health care across the UK and overseas to provide a better patient experience and improve collaboration between healthcare providers. It’s important that public health suppliers understand how integrated care systems work and how they’re set to deliver transformational change across the NHS over the coming months and years.
What are integrated care systems?
Integrated care systems are partnerships of organisations that are set to be established across England in 2022. 42 partnerships comprised of hundreds of health and social care organisations are joining together this year to drive best practices, improve consistency between care providers, and create opportunities to make cost and efficiency savings at scale.
Integrated care systems will take over from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to offer health and social care coordination services at the local level. The largest ICS in England by contract value is set to be South East London, which is worth £1.9bn, while other significant contracts include those of South West London and Cornwall and Isle of Scilly.
Each ICS created across England this year will include an integrated care partnership (ICP), which is a broad committee of partners each focused on improving the care, health and wellbeing of the local population. ICSs combine the services of the NHS, local councils, social care organisations, and local voluntary groups and organisations to deliver streamlined health and social care settings to local communities.
How ICSs will create major change in UK health and social care
The purpose of integrated care systems is to bring partner organisations together to improve the quality of the services they deliver to patients while reducing the overall cost of such services by improving operational efficiency. Some of the widely-touted benefits of ICSs include:
• Improving the outcomes of patients and improving health and care within local populations
• Counteracting inequalities in health and social outcomes between different groups
• Increasing productivity and efficiency and delivering better value for money
• Supporting broader social and economic development in local NHS trusts
By collaborating as an ICS, local care providers will be able to offer more efficient care to their patients and create personalised treatment plans that take into consideration a wide range of factors about a patient’s background and needs. This will result in faster response times, better outcomes, and increased support.
The significance of integrated care and interoperability
Integrated care is a concept that has existed for a long time. In the past, doctors, hospitals, and social workers have worked together to deliver patient-centred care that crosses multiple disciplines.
However, historical barriers between NHS and social care providers make truly integrated care difficult to implement. Effective perioperative care that meets industry best practices brings social care into the patient journey from day one and ensures that healthcare providers across all areas of the field are best placed to deliver a high standard of care across the community divide.
Today, ICSs are possible because of the immense technological leaps that have been made over the past decade as well as the keen dedication of health and social care providers willing to embrace new ways of working to improve patient outcomes.
Make integrated care a priority in your organisation
Integrated care systems across England will offer an effective solution to the fragmentation that has been present in the NHS since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. By embracing the introduction of ICSs, health and social care providers can break down these barriers and create a more integrated approach to service provision led by the needs of local communities.
You can read more about the introduction of integrated care systems in April 2022 at NHS England.