A new era has started this month for health and care services in Staffordshire – and the aim is for organisations that look after residents to work more closely together.
Integrated Care Systems (ICS) will involve local authorities which are responsible for social care, police and fire services alongside the NHS organisations that provide health services such as GP surgeries.
The six Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) which have overseen local health services across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent for the past decade have been abolished.
Instead the new Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent ICS will be overseen by an Integrated Care Board (ICB).
Peter Axon, chief executive of the new ICB, said:
“We are moving away from a competitive ethos to a more collaborative system, retaining the benefits that competitive environment delivered and acknowledging the importance of organisations working more closely together.
“It will focus more on the patient and citizen and that can only be a good thing when it comes to how we focus on NHS and social care.
“The ICS is bringing with it various partners including social care. It is not about mergers and acquisitions, it is about a culture shift.”Peter Axon
In recent years there have been local challenges around transferring hospital patients medically fit for discharge into the next stage of recovery, such as a place in a care facility or providing support services at home.
But it is hoped that by organisations working more closely together patients will experience a more smoother journey and be less likely to fall through service gaps.
Mr Axon spoke of a focus on trying to prevent residents requiring hospital admission in the first place.
“There is a big opportunity for us around prevention. There are no ‘golden bullets’ or immediate opportunities that might significantly lower the proportion of people with diabetes or heart disease – we will need longer-term strategies to do this.
“But a proactive agenda is a must from a quality of service and quality of life perspective, as well as a financial operating model.
“We need to understand the needs of the local population and who better to do that than the district, borough, county and city councils? Their relationship with the local population is already strong and they have real insight into the needs of the public.”Peter Axon
Many people who previously worked for the CCGs are transferring to the ICB.
“The clinicians and officers have worked tirelessly to help transform services for more than ten years.
“The CCGs did a great job in ensuring clinicians were more at the heart of decision making. Now we have a genuine opportunity to learn from the successes of the past while delivering our ambitions for greater integration between health and care in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, to reduce inequalities, and to improve health and care outcomes for local people.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure we capitalise on this opportunity, to deliver real change that goes beyond infrastructure, working closely with all NHS organisations, our local authorities and voluntary sector colleagues.
“Over the next 12 months, we will continue to work to develop our plans further.”Peter Axon