In 2019, the NHS set out plans to revolutionise Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) as part of its Long Term Plan.
The proposals included:
- Giving people more control over their own health and the care they receive
- Encouraging more collaboration between GPs, their teams and community services, as ‘primary care networks’ to increase the services they can provide jointly
- Increasing the focus on NHS organisations working with their local partners, such as Councils, as ‘Integrated Care Systems’, to plan and deliver services which meet the needs of their communities
Since the plan was first published in January 2019, health and social care are both areas that have been massively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, making the idea of a care system that is better integrated and gives patients more choice and control over their own healthcare sound almost impossible at this point in time.
In February 2022, a white paper was published entitledIntegration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all, which sets out legislative proposals for a new Health and Care Bill, which will make the legislation set out in the paper become law.
The paper held the pandemic up as an example of what could be achieved if everyone in the health and care systems pulled together. It also recognised that there was a lot to be done to rebuild these decimated systems to not only get them back to where they were pre-pandemic, but to better than they have ever been.
How exactly will it work?
According to the February white paper, ‘instead of working independently, every part of the NHS, public health and social care system should continue to seek out ways to connect, communicate and collaborate so that the health and care needs of people are met’ and ‘health and care services, local government, NHS bodies, and others (will) work ever more closely together…with common purpose and in partnership’.
The Bill sets up a series of Integrated Care Systems to cover England. The ICSs will include an Integrated Care Board (ICB) which will assume the commissioning responsibilities currently undertaken by clinical commissioning groups. There will also be an Integrated Care Partnership (ICP), a secondary part of the system intended to give a voice to the wider health and care community.
Place level commissioning within an integrated care system will align geographically to a local authority boundary and the Better Care Fund (BCF) plan will provide a tool for agreeing priorities. This will be further supported by other measures including improvements in data sharing and enshrining a ‘triple aim’ for NHS organisations to support better health and wellbeing for everyone, better quality of health services for all, and sustainable use of NHS resources.
The new legislative proposals in the paper that will be upheld by the Health and Care Bill ‘aim to build on the incredible collaborations we have seen through COVID’ and ‘shape a system that’s better able to serve people in a fast-changing world’.
The Bill also builds upon the original proposals made in the Long Term Plan and also looks at issues such as ‘removing transactional bureaucracy’ to make purchasing decisions easier, making better use of technology to support staff and patient care, and pledges to address staff shortages.
These are all potential opportunities from a tender or Framework point of view.
But, with a more ‘integrated’ system comes more partners and organisations. With the NHS, local authorities, the voluntary sector and others all working together to provide health and social care products and services in local areas, who will act as the Commissioner in a potential tender situation? If you are accepted onto one Framework, will you be eligible to join others?
One thing is for sure, tenders in health and social care are changing and we need to stay abreast of these changes.
Here are some suggested links for further reading:
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