Integrated care systems

Demand for NHS services is increasing rapidly. The impact of a growing and aging population in need of increasingly complex care, as well as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, have exacerbated longstanding funding and workforce pressures facing the NHS. To meet these challenges, the health and care system is transforming how it is structured, organised and delivered.

As part of these changes, 42 integrated care systems (ICSs) have been established in England. These ICSs bring together NHS organisations with local authorities and wider system partners to collectively plan to meet population needs, deliver better integrated care and tackle health inequalities.

ICSs have been established with the support and direction of national NHS guidance, policy frameworks and legislation. The Health and Care Act 2022 focused on developing system working with ICSs being put on a statutory footing from 1 July 2022, through the creation of integrated care boards (ICBs) and integrated care partnerships (ICPs).

Each statutory ICS must have the following elements:

Integrated care board – a statutory body that brings together all relevant parties involved in the planning and provision of NHS services to collaboratively deliver health plans and outcomes for their population.

Integrated care partnership – a system-level partnership established by the NHS and local government as equal partners, operating as a forum to bring together wider partner organisations to align their purpose and strategies.

ICSs also have additional components enabling them to deliver their core purpose through:

Provider collaboratives – bringing trusts together across one or more ICSs to work collaboratively

Place-based partnerships – involving the NHS, councils, voluntary organisations, local residents and services users, working together to design and deliver integrated services in a specific, geographical area.

Primary care networks (PCNs) – joint working between primary and secondary care, including through PCNs’ integrated multi-disciplinary teams, will be crucial to the success of ICSs.

ICSs continue to develop in a rapidly evolving national policy context. NHS Providers will continue to work with, and support, trust leaders to navigate the complexity of system working and integrated care, share learning and best practice across the country, and influence national policy developments. This includes our joint programme of support for provider collaboratives with NHS England.

More information can be found in the resources section below, as well as blogs, press releases and reports that we have produced on the topic.