The future of integrated care lies not only in national policy but supporting our NHS people to embed it locally

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By Andrew Lovegrove | 8 December 2020

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) has recently published a document that sets out guiding principles for the future of integrated care systems (ICSs) in England and outlines two proposals for how ICSs could be embedded in legislation by April 2022, subject to parliamentary decision.

Integrating Care: next steps to building strong and effective integrated care systems across England furthers the road map detailed in the NHS Long Term Plan, for health and care to be joined up locally around people’s needs. It signals a renewed ambition for how we can support greater collaboration between partners in health and care systems to help accelerate progress in meeting our most critical health and care challenges.

Over recent years, the development of system working has demonstrated the vital importance of working in collaboration and in partnership. In 2020, this has become a defining feature of the COVID-19 response, and we must now formally embed this into how our NHS operates in the future. Whilst this document takes a very positive step forward towards a more integrated, responsive health and care sector, a lot of change across our NHS workforce, and its organisational principles is going to be required to achieve the ambitions outlined in NHSEI’s proposals.

To improve the health and wellbeing of our population, structural reform is needed to enable the changes that are necessary. For so long we have developed leaders to think about their own organisation. We need to change that cultural mindset, behaviour, and experience, to move from almost competition with each other, to collaboration. Partnership and collaboration are a gear change for many, but if our senior people don’t live it, breathe it and enable it, then it can’t happen.

We’re also going to have to change the way we think about how we deliver care. As we have tended to see ourselves as a piece of the jigsaw, whereas in fact, collaboration doesn’t just end at structural changes. We need to build on all the work around personalisation, and ICS’s will have to take a less paternalistic view of their populations, seeing them as the primary stakeholder, as opposed to recipients of intervention. We need to shift to more of a focus on outcomes.

In 2019, Berkshire West Integrated Care System (BWICS) approached us, as one of the pioneers of the Six Steps Methodology, to look at their strategic workforce priorities. Prior to their evolvement into a system-level workforce plan, they wanted to ensure all elements had been fully considered and these were fit for the future.

This project achieved its aim of bringing together a wide variety of stakeholders to work collaboratively to address system-level workforce issues and provided a logical approach to workforce planning by utilising the Six Steps. We demonstrated how our methodology can support system-level workforce planning with a wide group of stakeholders and numerous challenges. Read more about our Six Step methodology to system-level workforce planning.

Regardless of which legislative option proposed by NHSEI is pursued, it is stated in the document that from April 2021, all parts of our health and care system will be required to work together as ICSs. It outlines an operating model will be developed to support this vision, including a package of support, enabling the use of digital and data to drive system working, connect health and care providers, improve outcomes and put the citizen at the heart of their own care.

We’ve long advocated addressing unjustified digital disparity and improving the use of data has long-term gains that can better the lives of staff and patients. Through the use of the best integrated digital platforms and data management solutions, we can make certain our people are armed with the right tools which can lead to an even higher standard of care.

A growing community of like-minded healthcare organisations investing in better digital solutions for their workforce, is already thriving. Our customers of Realtime Rostering, the total workforce rota management tool and LearnSpace, our complete learning management and compliance system, have proven benefits for supporting the delivery of efficient, high quality patient services.

Here at Skills for Health, we can help organisations to understand the why and how regarding integrated care at a local level, breaking barriers and helping to identify any gaps. We work with organisations, being a critical friend at every step of the transition, helping to understand the changes and to find practical workforce, leadership, and organisational development solutions.

We believe that all development; personal and organisational, begins with understanding where you are and where you have been, to craft an approach to getting you to where you want to be. Our Leadership, Management and Organisational Development programme ‘Leading for integrated systems of care’ will give you key insight into the working practice of leading for integrated systems and provides support and thinking space to enable that change to happen.

Andrew Lovegrove is a Senior Consultant here at Skills for Health, and as a former Nurse, has worked in and with the healthcare sector for over 20 years. As a specialist in strategic workforce planning and the Six Step Methodology, Andrew has helped hundreds of NHS and healthcare employers improve patient care through effective workforce development programmes.

As the Sector Skills Council for Health, we have over 20 years of experience in providing the practical workforce solutions that help deliver genuine integrated collaborative working. Find out more about our integrated workforce solutions that can support your organisation to realise the vision of a strong and effective integrated care system across the country.


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