Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) have been proposed as a means of delivering more joined-up healthcare for many years. The idea behind them is that NHS organisations work collaboratively, and with councils and others, to manage resources and improve people’s health. This policy is a promise to “support” increased integrated working and to include community pharmacies in the process. “Support” is a loose term which could mean, for example, legislative action, funding commitments, or simply guidance and advice to promote integrated working across health services.
Under this government the roll-out of ICSs has gathered pace so that they now cover more than a third of the population.
In September 2018, a King’s Fund report looked at a year of the development of ICSs and concluded that there are “encouraging signs of progress” and “potential to bring about improvements in health and care”. However, it also identified barriers to progress, including an unsupportive “legislative context” and “funding pressures”.
In July 2019, Public Health England published guidance on ICSs for directors of public health and their teams.
In terms of enhancing the role of community pharmacies, the NHS Long Term Plan proposes “fully integrated community-based health care”, including a plan for the NHS 111 phone line to “refer on to community pharmacies who support urgent care and promote patient self-care and self-management”.
There is a long way to go to fully implement the integrated care model, and we’ll keep tracking, particularly looking for legislative changes and improved funding. However, we found good evidence of support for the process under this government. Therefore, given this is a promise simply to “support” more integrated working, we’re marking this as ‘done’. Follow this policy for any updates.
Integrate the details into your understanding
- Integrated care systems – NHS England
- One in three people will benefit from faster and more convenient health and care – NHS England
- A year of integrated care systems: reviewing the journey so far – The King’s Fund
- Public health advice and support arrangements into Integrated Care Systems in England
- NHS Long Term Plan – NHS