04 April 2019, 13:40

Alan Foster's introduction

Some of you reading this may be living and breathing all things ICS, but I am sure there are many who may have heard ICS mentioned but are less involved, or not really clear what it all means.

To put it simply, this is about all organisations across our region – from health, social care and other partners – working together to significantly improve the health and wellbeing of our communities so they can live longer, healthier and wealthier lives.

The good news is that we’ve a long history across the North East and North Cumbria of pioneering new ways of working and have formed strong relationships along the way.

While we have much to be proud of - from the quality of care to tackling cancer mortality – we are not making enough progress to improve the overall health of our population, with healthy life expectancy in some areas remaining among the worst in the country. 

Many of us have seen first-hand what can be achieved when we work together and the positive impact this has on the lives of the communities we are here to serve - both at a local level but on a larger scale too.

Take for example heart disease, working together at scale in a co-ordinated and targeted way has reduced preventable early mortality by 50 per cent from 2001- 2012. This is thanks to a systematic programme of health checks and stop-smoking initiatives involving public health leads, GPs, pharmacists, secondary care and commissioners – all working together.

The scale and ambition of this work is exactly what we want to do more of.

These strong foundations, and the commitment of everyone involved, are enabling us to move forward on our journey to create an ICS to support this long-held ambition - to provide the very best care and improve the health of our communities.

The ICS will not be a new organisation but a new way of collaborating, drawing several existing strands of work together into a single system leadership and governance framework that will allow us to harness our collective energy.

It is expected that by April 2021, ICSs will cover the whole country. Here in the North East and North Cumbria, we are proposing that our developing ICS will start running in 2019. As you may know, North Cumbria has already been designated an emerging ICS and creating a larger ICS will support even more collaboration.

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January, brings further clarity on the significant role ICSs will play in enabling our organisations to work together and maximise opportunities to improve health and social care.

With this in mind we have started to set out our vision for the ICS, the priorities we will focus on as well as the principles which will guide us and the way we will be governed. We will soon be publishing a short document which describes all this in one place.  

In this bulletin we share just some of the things which are being taken forward in our priority areas – each of which is led by a senior responsible officer.   

Of course the vast majority of services will continue to be commissioned, planned and delivered locally – not everything can be delivered at scale. It remains important that we continue to tailor care to meet the needs of people locally, whether that be our inner city areas or our more rural communities.

The ICS will be supported by four integrated care partnerships (ICPs) based around how patients access hospital services and taking into account new primary care networks which will focus on co-ordinating general practice, community services, social care and the voluntary sector.    

Listening and involving people will be vital as we continue on this journey and there’s lots happening on this front – some highlighted in this bulletin.

We’ve held four engagement events at the start of the year with frontline staff and patient representatives from across the region. This culminated in a summit event for health and social care leaders where key themes and issues were shared.

But as we all know, listening and involving goes beyond just our workforce and we will need to continue to reach out to our local communities. We are delighted that Healthwatch organisations in the North East and North Cumbria will be supporting us in developing approaches to explaining, engaging and involving the public. 

Our communications and engagement workstream will be taking forward other plans to ensure we engage with our workforce and communities as we progress.

We will continue to keep you informed and involved in our shared journey to improve health and care for people in our region. I hope you find the updates in this bulletin helpful, please do share with colleagues. More bulletins are planned and there’s a new website and further events on the way.

Thanks, Alan

Contact Information

Integrated Care System
North of England Commissioning Support Unit