“Working differently, together”: exploring Mid and South Essex’s integrated care strategy

Mid and South Essex ICS has recently published their ten-year integrated care strategy, outlining their plans for improving health and care in the region.

Here, we will be exploring the key challenges facing the ICS, their long term goals and how they will seek to improve health and care services on a sustainable scale.

The strategy begins by acknowledging the challenges facing the NHS at large, with rising demands for specialised services, significant financial pressures both organisationally and individually, in terms of cost of living increases.

The ICS has identified three key challenges that can be found across their imprint: persistent inequalities; a growing and ageing population; and mental health conditions.

Working together

The ICS’s ambition is to tackle inequalities and differences through a “common endeavour” – this includes involving residents, personalising care through shared decision-making and working with all sectors to improve health and care outcomes across all social groups.

Going forward, the ICS will continue to support local partnerships, including their 27 primary care networks (PCNs) and four local alliances in order to thrive and achieve their joint ambitions.

The initial focus of this common endeavour will be on “the first 5,000” – this involves the ICS identifying the 5,000 individuals and families experiencing the worst health and care outcomes across the population, working to understand their needs, developing and delivering collective action, and then focusing on learning, collaboration and innovation to support them.

Defining the strategy

The strategy is based around three central perspectives and their core objectives; the ICS asks what is important to partners, the community and the health and care system at large?

For the ICS’s partners, the aforementioned wider determinants of health takes precedence – recognising that “health and wellbeing is impacted by many things, not just clinical care.”

Alongside this, the Core20PLUS5 NHSE framework is highlighted for its importance in identifying the groups most likely to experience poor health outcomes with regards to deprivation.

As partners, it is a key goal to improve the outcomes of adult care with a clear focus on mental health and suicide prevention, learning disabilities and autism and the ageing population. Improving the health and wellbeing of babies, children and young people with a focus on maternity, special educational needs, mental health and the healthy schools programme is also a priority.

In terms of what is important for the community, the strategy highlights the following fundamental areas of focus:

Access – focusing on emergency care, primary care and expanding community-based and personalised care.

Openness – maintaining open and honest communication with residents when things are working in order to build trust.

Involvement – creating varied opportunities for residents to be involved in their own care and the work of the partnership.

Awareness – breaking down barriers to support a better understanding of the health and care system.

Responsibility – helping to build strong communities and encouraging people to look after themselves.

From a broader systemic perspective, the strategy emphasises a number of main priorities. Firstly, the strategy acknowledges that tackling system pressures and challenges together as a united body will be vital in achieving the ICS’s long term goals.

“Recruiting, retaining and developing the workforce” alongside enabling earlier interventions and preventative methods are also important objectives from a wider healthcare perspective.

Connecting and integrating care is an essential driver of change, as well as improving data by expanding digital support and developing their shared care record.

Working differently together

The document states that in order “to deliver this strategy, we need to work differently together, sharing common plans, resources and information.”

To do this, the ICS will need to foster a broad and inclusive membership for their partnership – “drawing on all the strengths of all better together.”

Regular engagement with residents and partners will also be vital in achieving their long-term goals; maintaining two-way conversations will enable a more sustainable and effective channel of feedback and improvement for the ICS as a whole.

The other key improvement will be to allow organisations the “space and time to build relationships” – stronger collaboration will foster a more incentivised and informed workforce, making “health and care work better together.”

“We” Commitments

The strategy summarises its actions and commitments going forward through a series of “we” statements, highlighting the varies approaches the ICS will take in order to improve health and care services across Mid and South Essex.

The ICS pledges to be unified in the way that it tackles health inequalities, working with the widest possible range of partners, strengthening ways of working, and, where appropriate, sharing resources.

They will ensure robust processes to make sure all partners feel valued with an equal opportunity; ensure work is captured and reported correctly; and test and learn together through “developing and delivering a plan to better understand and support the needs of those household experiencing poor health and care outcomes.”

The ICS states that it must know what success looks like with a “clear set of outcome measures”, adapting their plans in line with the needs of local people and partners.

They commit to improving the health and care journey for residents through “investing in prevention and creating one front door for residents to access the vast majority of health and care services.”

In addition, they will adopt a ‘one workforce’ approach which allows people to feel empowered, valued and respected in order to support requirement and staff retention.

Final thoughts

The strategy concludes that “it is only through listening and working together” that they will successfully make the necessary changes needed to improve the health and wellbeing of the Mid and South Essex population. Through a collective, central vision, the ICS will enable everyone to be involved in the system’s ongoing development and transformation.

To read more about Mid and South Essex ICS’s strategy, please click here.