Circle Opinion

Integrated care systems – is your Trust maximising opportunities?

Susan Brooks

Since 2018, the NHS has seen Trusts building closer relationships with local councils and other important strategic partners such as the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

The 2021 NHS Long Term Plan cemented an integrated care system (ICS) that would build on lessons learned and invest in keeping people healthy, while setting future social care priorities.

The introduction of ICS throughout the NHS, along with the government’s new Health and Care Bill, brings health care under one umbrella, and highlights the importance of data sharing to enable joined up support across the NHS, local councils, and other partners.

ICS is helping change attitudes to data sharing and how data can be used to improve service provision. This presents a huge opportunity for NHS organisations to improve services and accelerate elective care activity. It enables better use of data by consolidating, managing and sharing it more efficiently and easily, resulting in better care through more easily pinpointing where problems or hurdles exist.

While Trusts will have a wealth of organisation and patient data, bringing it together to produce meaningful insight that can drive decision making and improvements, and access additional funding, is crucial.

Joining up health services

The Health and Care Bill changes how the NHS is structured and puts ICS on a statutory footing, enabling partnerships that better join up health and care service, improve the community’s health, and reduce health inequalities. Benchmarking across Trusts becomes possible, enabling more effective and consistent patient outcomes.

Each ICS is led by an Integrated Care Board (ICB), which will have responsibility for NHS functions and budgets across the ICS. The system sees 42 new ICBs replace Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), with a change from 106 CCG geographic areas to 42 ICBs.

Currently, much of the work with data in the NHS focusses on delivering upon statutory requirements. But moving forward, data will also become a tool for planning and measuring, informing decision making for improvements to clinical practise and leveraging data to improve the cost of care and the patient experience.

Sharing information across Trusts enables benchmarking of services, while patient pathways remain the priority at all touchpoints. Technology can be used to leverage knowledge of the environment and constraints and provide a proactive view of activity. This will allow Trusts to have a much clearer view of the entire patient journey, and will be the start of the changing future of healthcare.

It will help ICS to look ahead at long-term population heath needs based on demographic data, and better understand future problems – enabling a next level of planning that may not previously have been considered.

The current state of integrated care systems

The NHS Confederation, which supports and speaks for the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has carried out a review of ICS progress in 2021/22.

In the first of what will be annual reports into the evolution of ICS, it highlights what is working well and where it feels improvements are needed. These include:

  1.  ICS leaders may not have sufficient time and space to deliver the radical changes needed.
  2.  ICSs should make decisions at the most local level possible and be empowered to define what metrics they will be assessed on based on local priorities.
  3.  One of the biggest strengths of ICS so far has been improving joint working between partner organisations. Around 90% of system leaders believe they have been able to effectively improve joint working.
  4.  System leaders are committed to the principle of subsidiarity and 90% say this principle already applies to their system.
  5.  Another strength of ICS has been local workforces. ICS leaders feel they are making significant contributions to mitigate workforce pressures and improve working culture, with nearly 80% confident to deliver a ‘one workforce’ approach by July 2022.
  6.  More support is needed to help systems contribute to local social and economic development.
  7.  There is uncertainty about how the experiences and insights of leading primary care services at neighbourhood level inform system-level planning and strategy.
  8.  The biggest obstacle to further progress is national workforce shortages. The NHS Confederation is seeking amendments to the health and care bill to strengthen the duties of the Secretary of State for workforce planning, and has asked the government to develop and publish a health and care workforce strategy as a priority.

Taking the next steps forward

Data insight is crucial to help Trusts improve patient outcomes and drive cost savings. But finding the best approach to accessing the right funding and realising your digital strategy presents its own challenges.

CACI’s NHS services portfolio demonstrates our ability to support data projects at any stage of the data lifecycle, helping Trusts determine local priorities, accelerate timelines, maximise staff resources, improve joint working, and plan strategically for the future. And we combine all this with our wide experience of healthcare customers.

Data can become the building blocks of your solutions, showing you where services are at capacity, how to redesign them to avoid bottlenecks, and how to meet challenges and maximise opportunities.

Plan a call with one of our NHS experts today and take the first step towards optimising your organisation’s data provision. 

Read our latest blog ‘Challenges facing NHS Trusts – and how to tackle them’.

And for more expert insight, download our essential whitepaper – Elective Care, how NHS changes are bringing opportunities for Trusts and patient care.

Contact us now
Susan Brooks