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NHS guidance on ICS strategy released

New NHS guidance on how to construct strong Integrated Care Systems (ICS) has been published by NHS England.

The guidance sets out two core expectations for ICSs to ensure clinical and care professional leadership is embedded in ICS arrangements from April 2022. It also outlines five principles for ICSs to consider when developing arrangements for clinical and care professional leadership and ‘what good looks like’ in each case, to help systems evaluate current arrangements and identify where more development might be needed.

The first expectation is that each Integrated Care Board is “expected to agree a local framework and plan for clinical and care professional leadership with ICS partners and ensure this is promoted across the system.”

The framework should include the five following principles set out in the guidance, that includes a staff engagement strategy, and plans for staff development.

The first principle of the five set-out in the guidance is focussed on integrating clinical and care professionals in decision making at every level of the ICS. As part of this principle clinical and care professionals (regardless of their profession) should have a role in the system and actively seek the views of frontline colleagues and “decisions and intelligence sharing across the ICS should be timely and transparent; where concerns and risks are identified, they are acted on promptly.”

The second principle is surrounding culture in ICSs, the guidance says ICS’s should be “creating a culture of shared learning, collaboration and innovation, working alongside patients and local communities.” The guidance outlines that: “system leaders work collaboratively with clinical and care professionals, encouraging curiosity and flexibility to maximise innovative thinking” and “will nurture a culture that systematically embraces shared learning, supporting clinical and care professional leaders to collaborate and innovate with a wide range of partners, including patients and local communities.”

The third principle addresses creating the right environment for ICS leaders and clinicians and handing them the appropriate resources to carry out their roles. The guidance says: “clinicians and care professionals have access to relevant shared data and analytics, to health economists and research academics and to training, if required, to enable them to use data most effectively.”

The penultimate piece of guidance is focussed on developing leaders within ICS’s and it outlines: “clinical and care professionals are to be supported to take time away from the day job to participate in system learning opportunities, including coaching, mentoring, peer support networks and actions learning sets.”

The final principle is centred around “identifying, recruiting and creating a pipeline of clinical and care professional leaders” and as part of the process to improve the recruitment of ICS’s. The guidance recommends “systems will have clear, transparent and inclusive processes for advertising, recruiting and promoting to all roles across the ICS, including system clinical and care professional roles, purposefully encouraging new talent to step forward.”

The Clinical and Care Professional Leadership Steering Group collaborated on the guidance and promoted their support for the recommendations made, and outlined a commitment to implement the recommendations in partnership with NHS England and Improvement.