Over the last two and a half years (and counting), in the face of extraordinary pressures, the NHS has continued to consistently deliver for millions of patients and service users. We have flexed services at unprecedented speed, developed new forms of care, like virtual wards and Long Covid services, administered millions of Covid-19 vaccines and supported new ways of working.
No service has remained untouched by the pandemic, and staff are now working hard to address worsened backlogs in elective care, mental health and community services, while also tackling major issues around timely access to urgent and emergency care, primary care and hospital discharges. While there is still some way to go, progress is being made in challenging circumstances, and we have virtually eliminated waiting lists of two years or more for elective care.
The wider NHS reform agenda will play a key role in supporting recovery. The partnership working that is rapidly breaking new ground across the country builds on progress and relationships developed over many years, and has been strengthened by the way health and care services have responded to the pandemic. The creation of integrated care systems (ICSs) as statutory bodies in July 2022 is a key next step. ICSs sit at the heart of our NHS reform agenda, and their success will need to be driven by ever-deeper collaboration between system partners.
As we look to the future, ICSs will be the key to planning better health and care services for every community, and delivering on national NHS priorities around service recovery, and improving outcomes for patients across all services. Effective partnerships will improve the access to and quality of care, and create more efficient and joined-up services. Alongside local government, the third sector and other partners, the NHS will need to play an increasing role in prevention, and managing people's health in their communities.
While ICSs are the overarching structures supporting collaboration, many of these ambitions will be achieved through a range of different partnerships, including provider collaboratives. As this report illustrates, NHS providers are absolutely central to this vision for the future.
Trust leaders had been embracing collaboration to deliver new and innovative services and ways of working for the benefit of patients and service users for many years well before the pandemic began.
As we move through the first years of ICSs as statutory bodies, we need to keep a focus on the role of providers in enabling greater collaboration within and across organisations, and continue to build on this progress.
Thank you to those who have contributed to this journey so far. Your work has been – and will continue to be – essential in progressing partnerships and collaboration for the benefit of patients and service users.