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New report on integrated care systems

The King’s Fund has launched a new report, ‘A year of integrated care systems: reviewing the journey so far’. Where once the primary purpose of the health and care system was to provide treatment for illnesses as they arose, it now needs to deliver joined-up support for growing numbers of older people and people living with long-term conditions. To meet this challenge, the NHS and its partners must break down barriers between services and give greater priority to promoting population health and wellbeing.

This aim is being pursued through sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and the evolution of some STPs into integrated care systems (ICSs). These ‘place-based’ partnerships will be given more control over local funding and services in the hope that they can make better use of resources and improve the health and wellbeing of their populations.

In June 2017, NHS England announced ten areas to develop the first ICSs.  A further four were selected in May 2018, and others will follow. They are expected to become increasingly important in planning services and managing resources in the future.

This report, from think tank The King’s Fund, on the first year of ICSs finds that:

  • ICSs’ development has been locally led and there is no national blueprint. The systems vary widely in their size and complexity. Larger ICSs are working to improve health and care through neighbourhoods and places as well as across whole systems, emphasising the principle of subsidiarity.
  • Most ICSs are making progress in developing their capabilities to work as systems, and organisations are working more collaboratively to manage finances and performance in a way that was not happening previously.
  • There are some early signs of progress in delivering service changes, particularly in relation to strengthening primary care, developing integrated care teams and reviewing how specialist services are delivered. It is early days, and more time is needed to embed these changes and determine their impact.
  • The challenge now is to build on the foundations that have been laid by removing barriers and providing time and support to ICS leaders to take their work to the next stage of development. As this happens, the understandable desire to see change happen quickly needs to be married with realism about the scale and complexity of what is being attempted.

Find out more: www.kingsfund.org.uk