If you’re not familiar with the inner workings of the UK’s NHS (National Health System), you might not have heard of integrated care systems.
These systems were rebranded and restructured in 2018/19. This rebranding occurred in a bid to improve healthcare and provide a more seamless experience for patients throughout the United Kingdom (UK).
Simply put, these systems help NHS organizations, commissioners, and local councils collaborate. This improves the quality of healthcare throughout the UK. This type of integrated system essentially takes collective responsibility for managing resources within the NHS. Also, the system delivers agreed-upon standards and improves patient experience across the board.
How Have Integrated Care Systems Evolved?
In simple terms, integrated care systems represent an evolution of pre-existing sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs). STPs previously covered the whole of England. They set out core proposals to improve the quality of healthcare for patients.
In this respect, integrated care systems simply represent a more collaborative and intertwined partnership. They assume far greater responsibility for planning and commissioning care for populations in specific regions and areas of jurisdiction.
These close partnerships are also alliances of NHS providers that focus on collaboration rather than competition. Hospitals, mental health services, community services, and general practitioners work seamlessly with each other. These providers also work with selected third-sector suppliers.
Interestingly, the private sector has played a key role in the formation of effective integrated care systems. Legal experts such as Browne Jacobson provide guidance to help businesses understand what’s required.
Are Integrated Care Systems Beneficial to Patients?
There’s no doubt that this type of system is inherently beneficial to both patients and caregivers alike. There are numerous reasons for this.
From the perspective of patients, there’s evidence to suggest that integrated care systems trigger a direct increase in patient satisfaction. The perceived quality of care and access to various services also increases with a more collaborative approach by stakeholders.
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Also, when it comes to healthcare providers, it’s fair to say that integrated care translates into better-coordinated services. Better coordination reduces waiting times, improves patient flow, and enhances the consistency of information shared by caregivers.
What Does the Future Hold?
Going forward, the government must do more work to clarify the precise role of integrated care systems in the UK. After all, these partnerships seek to make sense of the fragmented organizational arrangements that have evolved from the contentious Health and Social Care Act of 2012.
The NHS suffered from significant under-funding over the course of the last decade. Therefore, collaborative systems must work with reduced resources and within an increasingly strained public healthcare system. However, the promise of renewed investment by Boris Johnson’s government offers greater hope for the future. In addition, the Prime Minister’s 80-seat majority also enables the Tories to prioritize healthcare and make integrated care systems fit for their purpose.
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