NHS England releases design framework for ICSs

NHS England has released a new design framework for Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), to help guide NHS leaders and organisations.

The framework, which was published on 16 June 2021, sets out the expected commitments and aims of ICSs, from April 2022 onwards.

The 56-page document covers a range of areas – from outlining more about the ICS Partnership and ICS NHS Body, through to shedding light on what this all means for managing the transition across 2021/2022, and what is expected of organisations.

Areas included in the literature include: people and culture; governance and management arrangements; the role of providers; clinical and professional leadership; working with people and communities; accountability and oversight; financial allocations and funding flows; data and digital standards and requirements; and managing the transition to statutory ICSs.

Noting that, throughout the pandemic “our people told us time and time again that collaboration allowed faster decisions and better outcomes,” NHS England writes that it’s maintaining its commitment to integration and teamwork.

Urging organisations to seize “opportunities presented by legislative reform” to remove “barriers to integrated care and create the conditions for local partnerships to thrive”, the document also acknowledges that there is a lot of work ahead.

Asking “NHS leaders, working with partners in local government and beyond,” to continue developing “Integrated Care Systems during 2021/22”, and “preparing for new statutory arrangements from next year”, it admits that “this is a significant ask.”

The next steps set out in the document also include a focus on good practice and features of the financial framework, as well as a roadmap for implementing new arrangements.

Of particular interest was the people and culture section, which stated that “better care and outcomes” will be achieved by “local residents, service users, carers, professionals and leaders” working together.

From 2022, it said, ICS NHS bodies are expected to “have specific responsibilities” for “delivering against the themes and actions set out in the NHS People Plan.”

This is set to include the requirement for: clear leadership and accountability; demonstrations of equality, diversity and inclusion; supporting the delivery of standardised, high-quality transactional HR services, such as payroll; protection of people’s health and wellbeing, and to improve the working experience; planning based on population need; developing the workforce to meet future need; new ways of working and delivering care that optimise staff, skills and technology; and contributing to local social and economic growth.

To read the framework in full, visit NHS England.