The NHS in England and the care systems within which it operates across the country are about to undergo the biggest change in a decade. The Health and Care Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April that will establish new ways of integrated working from 1 July.
This comes at a time when NHS priorities to equitably improve access, reduce waiting times, support and grow the workforce and harness the potential of data and intelligence have come under the spotlight. It also comes at a time when the understanding of local population need is seen to be best met through agencies and people working together with an integrated approach.
Following an approach to integrated care relying on coalitions of the willing to work together across systems, the UK government has set out plans to put integrated care systems (ICSs) in England on a statutory footing in the 2021 Health and Care Bill. This will formally establish 42 new partnerships between organisations that come together to plan and deliver healthcare services for their local populations.
These changes create an opportunity to address health inequalities and deliver holistic care in the most appropriate setting whilst relieving the unprecedented pressures on the NHS and care providers.
These reforms could mark a turning point in the drive towards a more integrated healthcare system. Still, to do so, there will need to be a profound cultural shift in support of collaborative working across the boundaries of health, care, prevention and self-care.
As we approach the introduction of ICSs, what can we expect? We outline below 1) the expectations of the new organisations, 2) the requirements of transition to them, 3) the opportunity for improved joint working and 4), and the opportunity to change culture.
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