The NHS and local authorities in North West London will join together as an ‘integrated care system’ (ICS) from April 2021, using their collective strength to improve life expectancy and quality of life, reduce health inequalities and achieve health outcomes on a par with the best of global cities.
NHS England and Improvement has confirmed that North West London is one of 11 areas which will be formally designated as an ICS from 1 April 2021, bringing the total number of ICSs in England to 29.
An integrated care system (ICS) brings together all part of the NHS and local authorities in an area to focus on improving the health of the local population. The NHS and local authorities in North West London have already been working informally as an ICS, ahead of expected legislation to put ICSs on a statutory footing next year.
Lesley Watts, interim Chief Executive of the North West London ICS, welcomed the news. “This is great news for the residents of North West London. It means that in future, services across North West London will be built around the needs of local people, with all part of the system working together to deliver the best possible care and outcomes.
“We have a compelling case for change: the variation in health outcomes and in the numbers of years lived in poor health between different areas across our eight boroughs is unacceptable.
“To improve the health of our population we have to make the best use of the £6.8bn we spend, and this means closer working between the NHS, local councils and our wider community, including the voluntary sector, academic institutions and Healthwatch. We will work together to make sure that resources are allocated fairly and equitably across North West London, targeted to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities.”
Penny Dash, who became the first independent Chair of the North West London ICS in September, said: “An ICS is a way of trying to get all the bits of health and care to work effectively together, to ensure we are focused on the health needs of the population and that everyone who lives in the area has access to consistently high quality care. It’s about using the money we have available in the best way to meet the needs of our local communities, meaning we may need to allocate resources differently.”
“There are real historical challenges that have not gone away. Working together is the best way to address them.”
Councillor Graham Henson, Leader of Harrow Council, added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the real advantages of the whole system working together to meet the needs of local residents. Covid-19 has also shone a light on inequalities between different areas and communities, both within individual boroughs and across North West London as a whole.”
“We need to work together in each borough and across North West London as a whole, to deliver the best possible care and outcomes for our residents. An important part of that will be making sure the resident voice is up front and centre in all that we do. Local authorities will play a full part in reflecting the needs and interests of our local communities.”
Earlier this week, NHS England and Improvement announced a six-week period of engagement on proposed legislation to put ICSs on a statutory footing.
Lesley Watts added: “The NHSE paper aligns with our thinking and the work we have been doing in North West London to develop the ICS. We are already working towards a single CCG, provider collaboratives, ‘place-based’ borough partnerships and joint decision-making at system level. Proposals for legislation along these lines have been expected for some time.”
“The proposals move us closer to the collaborative approach we are seeking to put in place across NW London, and away from a system driven by competition between providers and a commissioner-provider split.”
“We will consider the proposals in detail and to seek the view of our partners, stakeholders and staff before responding to NHS England and Improvement.”
The North West London ICS covers a population of 2.2 million people across eight London boroughs, employs c 50,000 people and was allocated a budget £6.8bn in 2020/21 to meet the health needs of the population.