Working in partnership

Partnership is the golden thread that runs through all levels of integrated care systems (ICSs) – from neighbourhood and place, through to system and region – creating opportunities for partners to join up and work together to improve outcomes for local populations.

Only by bringing partners together, across all relevant sectors, and at every level we can plan and provide the right services to meet local need. These are provided as locally as possible.

The needs and aspirations of people and communities are at the heart of integrated care. It is essential that they are understood, actively listened to, and represented across the system, so that local communities are involved in all decision making.

Each integrated care board (ICB) has set out how they will work with their system partners to build relationships with local communities, including through Healthwatch, to ensure people have genuine and meaningful influence at every level. 

Upper-tier local authorities are statutory partners in ICSs and play a core role in planning and overseeing health and wellbeing services for their communities. They have a place on every ICB and jointly run their integrated care partnership (ICP).

They also influence the wider issues that affect health by providing housing, planning, transport and education services, as well as adult social care. They have a central role as leaders in local places and neighbourhoods.

Adult social care providers bring expertise in supporting people’s wellbeing and independence, whether in their own home, a care home or in the community.

They support people of all ages to maintain independent and fulfilling lives, including those with complex needs, frail older people, people with mental health needs and people with a learning disability, autism, or both.

Bringing together health and social care means that patients can better manage their own conditions, have better care plans and be treated in the right place for them – helping them to stay out of hospital where possible.

Many providers have well-established and trusted relationships with the people they support, helping ICSs to have a more direct and ongoing dialogue with communities and people. As a major employer, the adult social care provider sector has a vital role in recruiting and developing health and care staff.

Voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations provide diverse support to people, in the communities where they live. Ranging from large national charities to grassroots community groups, their support for people with complex needs helps to reduce health inequalities.

The VCSE alliance model helps the sector get involved in ICSs, by giving them a collective voice and a co-ordinated route to work within ICSs.

NHS trusts and foundation trusts provide acute, mental health and community care for people, as well as ambulance services.

Organisations providing NHS services are setting up provider collaboratives which manage services across whole systems, and even with neighbouring ICSs. This means that people can access care more quickly: whether for diagnosis, surgery or outpatient treatment. Demand for specialist acute care can be managed sustainably and resources can be better managed.

Providers of primary care services support more patients every working day than any other single part of the health system. Made up of general practice, community pharmacy, optometry and dentistry it delivers, from cradle to grave, across the spectrum of prevention, urgent, and long-term condition care for millions of people.

Other partners have a key role to play in addressing wider determinants of health, whether in providing good housing, supporting people into education and employment, helping people who are in contact with the justice system, building on the interactions of other emergency services like the fire service and police, and benefitting from the enterprise of local businesses.