A recent article in HSJ highlights has drawn our attention to a paper published by NHS England “Integrated Care next steps to building strong and effective integrated care systems across England”.

Health and social care historically, has to some degree, been a fragmented system but this has is changing and the introduction of integrated care partnerships has been a stimulus providing a collaborative framework for service providers. The COVID pandemic has accelerated the changes as organisations have been drawn together to work for the public good with concerted efforts to address local needs.

The proposed steps as set out within this paper suggest building on this and the importance of health and social care needs being addressed at a more localised level reflecting the particular needs of communities and with a more bottom up approach.

The paper puts forward a strong case for Integrated Care Systems (ICS) with strengthening the collaboration and partnership at a local level enabling care to address the priorities within a community and highlighting the need for structural change to facilitate this. This will need each ICS to have control over commissioning budgets and with this will be a need for appropriate regulation, governance and public accountability.

The recommendations made should reduce competition and encourage closer working between providers and a more joined up approach to healthcare. It could be seen that the proposed changes are going full circle with ICS akin to the Area Health Authorities which existed in the 1970s and covered and collaborated with Local government within their areas in relation to primary care services.

It is considered that there are benefits of working in partnership with a sharing of skills and knowledge, which can lead to more efficient working patterns and potential financial savings and this will all be in the Public interest but it requires the buy in from the respective service providers. If there is to be some positive from the pandemic it is hoped that the benefit of this collaborative approach by healthcare providers can be maintained and built upon.