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What are the key priorities Integrated Care Systems are focusing on in 2022 and 2023?
06 May 2022

Integrated Care Systems (ICS) were introduced to connect Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and local authorities together for a more seamless service which gives better visibility to improve health and wellbeing for patients.

“Integrated care is about giving people the support they need, joined up across local councils, the NHS, and other partners. It removes traditional divisions between hospitals and family doctors, between physical and mental health, and between NHS and council services.” (NHS England).

In February 2022, the UK Government published its ‘Joining up care for people, places and populations’ whitepaper, which laid out new plans for the integration of health and social care in England and how ICSs can bring this together in line with the NHS Long Term Plan.

Local authorities and NHS England are working closely together but there is still a long way to go due to further government reform, funding changes and internal goals and targets. This is affecting the speed and timing for when these changes can be implemented and has been further disrupted by the pandemic.

Why has the pandemic caused a delay?

The focus on care related to Covid-19 has led to a backlog of services across the country within health and social care; concerns have been raised on maintaining elective activity throughout winter.

Pressure is also rising to address staff wellbeing as many are facing exhaustion and burnout. A House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee report revealed that “92% of trusts told NHS Providers they had concerns about staff wellbeing, stress and burnout following the pandemic” (Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care, 2021). Social care is also facing a workforce crisis and struggling with recruitment, aggravated by the impact of lockdowns, low pay and continually changing requirements.

So how are ICSs focusing their efforts?

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed these plans, it has also highlighted the importance and need for digital transformation, integrated care, shared services, and the ability to access data and reporting for improved wellbeing and care of patients and staff. This means ICSs will need to focus on prioritising six key areas to more effectively work with communities, providers and care organisations.

Integration of CCGs into ICS bodies

Original targets focused on merging CCGs under an ICS by April 2021, with further work to align financing, processes, staffing and services etc, this has now been pushed back to July 2022.

Although simple in theory, the work in practice has been far more challenging. Uniformed staff structures need to be aligned across each CCG within the same ICS, and this has meant change for many teams with roles being replaced or adjusted. According to Pharmacy Magazine, staff restructuring should be completed by December, “ICS are expected to have completed due diligence and preparations for staff and property transfers from CCGs to the new ICS bodies.”

The government is also working to provide support for financial structuring, as outlined in the 2022 whitepaper, “We will work with partners to develop guidance for local authorities and the NHS to support going further and faster on financial alignment and pooling.”

Finally, ICSs will need to embed existing primary care objectives and manage the backlog from the Covid-19 pandemic. New, shared resources and connected care services will assist with this, however, until processes and practices are streamlined, this could cause further delays to pre-elective care and ICSs must manage this.

Digital transformation

As part of NHS England’s digital transformation plans and long-term plan, the NHS is prioritising digital transformation to improve access, data and future improvement planning within healthcare.

ICS bodies need to avoid the duplication of systems, technology or work, for a streamlined service. Many CCGs are at different points in this process and are using a variety of technologies.

ICSs will, therefore, not only need to amalgamate these products and systems but also plan to improve upon current, outdated products. This is a great opportunity to bring health and social care into the future and develop some standardisation across the sector.

Managing growth and scalability

Many larger ICSs which have already merged multiple or big CCGs have had a harder time directing the scale of change. However, digital transformation will allow ICSs to manage this new growth and scale with time.

Local authorities can provide a unique understanding of the challenges communities are facing to provide care. This will reduce crossover of services helping ICSs to react faster and give them access to the councils’ available marketplace.

By building upon systems and process which allow for better communication and connection with local authorities and community services, ICSs can transform and build upon local areas. The results will be improved response, urgent care and access to services such as primary care and mental health support.

Communities will also have a more direct line to offer feedback and solutions. This will further open the marketplace for new providers, and in turn reduce pressure on staff, improve their wellbeing, bolster recruitment and enhance care.

Data and reporting

Bringing together multiple organisations and services, requires a clear oversight of what’s going on via data and reporting. The NHS and local authorities manage huge amounts of confidential data which not only needs to be secured correctly but also must remain accurate and up to date. It is therefore a mammoth task to bring these data streams together while remaining secure and correct.

To support this, NHS England and NHS Digital have laid out plans for the patient level data set which will set out set requirements and standardisation for the data of NHS CHC patients and how this is collected, stored and reported. It will pull together CCG and ICS reports into one system for both high level and granular reporting. Therefore, anyone working within or with the NHS and ICS will need to report on the same data set, ensuring each service can access the correct patient data when required.

By moving this to a digital platform, the data is accessible from anywhere at any time, and allows for automated reporting and reduction of manual admin tasks, while keeping the data safe and secure.

The role of the provider

Providers will see some changes in commissioning, although this is still being outlined and awaiting confirmation. However, it is clear that ICSs will be responsible for procurement and commissioning.

“Securing the provision of health services to meet the needs of the population by taking on the commissioning functions that currently reside with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) alongside some of those that currently reside with NHS England” (The Kings Fund, 2021).

By bringing CCGs under an ICS, it will give more visibility over the market and the providers in operation. This insight will help to make further improvements to community care and understand where/if care is lacking in an area.

Providers, like adam, are working closely with CCGs, local authorities and other NHS providers to collaborate and bring systems inline for ICS integration. By working together, it ensures the products fit with individual ICSs needs and requirements while providing the correct reporting tools for integrated care.

At adam, we are also working with ICS, CCG and local authority suppliers in the local community to develop a solution which fits all parties, reducing admin time, integrating with other systems and technologies, securing data, and making it accessible from anywhere for those with assigned permissions. This not only improves relationships but provides another source of communication between suppliers, and a smoother transition for integration.

Discover how adam can help support your CCG and ICS with transitioning and integrating your commissioning with our healthcare and social care solutions. Contact our team today.

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