During the crisis, the NHS has managed with less than optimal technology – but that isn’t a sustainable position. The case for investing in new technology is clear but delivery has proved difficult in the past.
After a year of unprecedented speed, exemplified in both the development of a range of vaccines and in the response to the UK Ventilator Challenge, now is not the time to pause. Instead, it’s time to double down on technology, maintain a focus on rigorous analysis and modelling to guide decision making, and use data to drive the recovery and improve integrated care.
Patients must have better, more joined up care as, which require all parts of the NHS to work with each other and their partners, are rolled out across the country from next month. NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens today confirmed that the final 13 areas, serving 14.9 million people, will be formally designated “integrated care systems” (ICSs) from April 1, hitting a major milestone in the NHS Long Term Plan.
A total of 42 ICSs, which with local authorities and other care providers will cover the whole of England.
Announcing the decision to approve the local applications from these 13 areas at a meeting of ICS leaders, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Partnership working has been at the heart of the NHS’s remarkable response to the coronavirus pandemic and the NHS vaccination programme.
“Now GPs, hospitals, pharmacists, local authorities and community groups have also come together to deliver COVID jabs to more than 22 million people across England in a matter of weeks.
“We have seen what the NHS pulling together can do in the most testing period in the health service’s history. The establishment of ICSs across the country will help to ensure that agile approach and can-do attitude endures beyond the pandemic.”
The NHS Long Term Plan said Integrated Care Systems would be central to its delivery by bringing together local organisations to redesign care and improve population health, creating shared leadership and action. ICSs exist to improve the health of all residents, better support people living with multiple and long term conditions, preventing illness, tackling variation in care and delivering seamless services while getting maximum impact for every pound. They bring together the NHS, local government and other organisations including the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sectors. While the geographical boundaries for the individual systems may evolve during 2021/22 to enable co-terminosity between the NHS and local government, the structures will enable health and care organisations to join forces and apply their collective strength to addressing their residents’ biggest health challenges, many exacerbated by COVID-19.
Health and care leaders have said this will be more important going forward as we address health inequalities and tackle issues around mental health and obesity. The Government has set out a White Paper which will build on recommendations from NHS England and NHS Improvement to remove current legislative barriers to integration across health and social care bodies, and foster collaboration between NHS and local government organisations. This reflects the thousands of views received from every part of the health and care system and the public as part of recent engagement on what local leaders need.
Amanda Pritchard, Chief Operating Officer for NHS England and Improvement said: “This milestone is a great achievement, which shows the strength of system collaboration across the country. The ICSs have proven their value over the past year and will play an increasingly important role in the restoration, recovery and transformation of services for the benefit of patients and citizens.”
The 13 new ICS areas are:
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
Mid and South Essex
The Black Country and West Birmingham
Herefordshire and Worcestershire
Coventry and Warwickshire
Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
Cheshire and Merseyside
Kent and Medway
Dale Bywater, Regional Director for NHS England and Improvement in the Midlands, said: “Better joined up health and care systems mean improved, more easily accessible services for the people of the Midlands. The partnerships formed over the last four years will translate into better frontline care and we look forward to strengthening those relationships further. “We just want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make this a reality, especially over the last extremely challenging year.”