The future for ICS

The case for collaborative working in health and care was strengthened by the NHS collective experience of Covid-19 in which health and care leaders had to work together to tackle a public health emergency and ensure essential services continued. Services responded by making in days and weeks changes that were previously debated for months or years. For example, the Kent and Medway ICS extended their Acute Response Team service to help care homes in Thanet and those caring for patients in their own homes to better cope with the extra demands caused by COVID-19.

With growing waiting lists following COVID-19 Surrey Heartlands ICS identified almost 3,000 patients aged over 65 who were on four or more waiting or follow-up lists for long-term specialty care and mental health services at a cost of £19million a year. The patients also had wider health and social needs which were uncoordinated. GPs in Guildford and Waverley worked with geriatricians at Surrey County Hospital and a multi-disciplinary team across the partnership to roll out a proactive integrated care hub. Now people are seen by multiple specialists at one time, often virtually, improving their patient experience, increasing the number of professionals they can access across health and care, reducing the need for multiple visits to hospital, reducing their risk of picking up infections and reducing NHS workload

There is now an appetite across our South East health and care systems to lock in these gains, and the new, beneficial ways of working developed in the heat of the pandemic. In February NHS England and NHS Improvement asked the Government and Parliament[1] to establish ICSs in law and to remove legal barriers to integrated care for patients and communities.

In July the NHS Health and Care Bill had its first two readings in the House of Commons and has now reached the committee stage. The Public Bill Committee is inviting those with relevant expertise or interest to submit written evidence which will be considered when the committee begins to review the Bill on September 7.