While many trusts have developed successful collaborative arrangements in recent years, the formalisation of provider collaboratives in national policy has cemented their importance alongside place-based partnerships as key delivery vehicles in the new context of system working. As statutory ICSs establish themselves and the role of provider collaboratives and place-based partnerships evolves, we urge the government and national NHS bodies to maintain the current flexible national policy framework.

There remain some unanswered questions and risks for trust boards to navigate when exploring the opportunities of collaboration at scale. Managing risk and performance in this new context, as well as deciding what responsibilities and functions ICBs might delegate where in the system, are important considerations for trust boards.

Trust leaders across all sectors – acute, mental health, specialist, community, and ambulance – have a range of views about the benefits that can be realised in their local contexts, but they share a common sense of opportunity to use this new policy framework to drive change and deliver benefits for local communities. They see potential to improve care and services through driving standardisation, addressing unwarranted variation, bolstering service resilience, identifying approaches to better support people experiencing inequalities, and developing innovative ways of working with other local partners such as social care providers and primary care services. Some collaboratives are also exploring how they could, in time, take on a more formalised role within statutory ICSs and lead on transformational change, allocating budgets, planning services and redesigning pathways.

NHS Providers will continue to support the NHS provider sector to share learning about realising the benefits and managing the risks of greater collaboration.