You’ll learn how to:
Better understand the ICS changeover
Plan for how care is delivered
Commission a new ICS website
Read time: 6 minutes
The NHS’s Long Term Plan mandated that all parts of England should have an Integrated Care System (ICS) by April 2021. A comprehensive website and strong digital-first approach can help facilitate this transition to integrated care.
We look at what an ICS is, how they are changing the face of healthcare and what to look for when commissioning an ICS website.
The integral role the NHS plays in public health means having to work with many different stakeholders, from local councils to private medical services.
Integrated Care System (ICS) changeover
The NHS was originally designed to provide critical care for acute illnesses but has burgeoned into the primary source of medical support for all parts of the population, from neonatal to palliative care. Its services have moved beyond the hospital and into people's homes and communities.
The integral role the NHS plays in public health means having to work with many different stakeholders, from local councils to private medical services. The recent changeover to ICSs should address some of the communication barriers between services by integrating health and social care in local areas.
There is no current statutory basis for ICSs, which means they are dependent on the commitment and drive from healthcare leaders to work collaboratively. Many practitioners and leaders in the healthcare industry have come through the COVID-19 pandemic with a renewed conviction that building and maintaining a truly collaborative, community-based system like an ICS is crucial to tackling health inequalities and improving public health outcomes.
ICSs are designed to replace existing Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which came into force via the Health and Social Act 2012. The NHS Long Term Plan established that all parts of England would have an ICS by April of 2021 to facilitate joined-up care across the nation.
CCGs were membership organisations that contained local GPs and hospitals as individual members and commissioned services based on their needs. These CCGs lacked connections across related sectors, however, as well as the means to address socio-economic determinants of health. In contrast, ICSs have social care funds, meaning they can take a more joined-up approach to thinking about health on both an individual and community level.
The partners within an ICS could include:
- the NHS
- local councils
- mental health services
- social care services
In the past, divisions between these services meant that people often experienced frustratingly disjointed care, which could lead to delays and poor health outcomes. A lack of joined-up care meant that healthcare was disconnected from some of the leading causes of ill health, like unemployment or unsuitable housing.
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How did COVID-19 change how care is delivered?
The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent need for new ways of working that limited the risk of transmission. Many of these solutions had already been 'in the works' for some time, such as telephone appointments and online pharmaceutical providers, but the public health crisis necessitated their mass uptake.
The NHS also faced a lack of resources and needed to commission a wide variety of products and services from private providers – everything from rapid COVID-19 tests to PPE. NHS services also leaned on the expertise of long-term carers, private practices, junior doctors and nurses in training, highlighting essential links with private providers and other institutions.
Alongside these new challenges, there was also a rise in patients proactively seeking care online. One of the most vital assets to any health and social care provider is clear and actionable information online about how to access all services related to health. An ICS website can do just that.
ICSs will become increasingly important to public health in the United Kingdom as they take over key responsibilities, planning and project management of NHS resources. They will also become the foundation for collaboration and partnership work across organisations in the health, social and long-term care sectors.
Commissioning a new website for your ICS
Having all the information you need about the ICS online makes it easier not only for patients, but also for staff, local authorities, social care providers and more. An ICS website will act as the central hub of the system, much like the reception desk at your local GP or community centre.
You will need a site that is modern, comprehensive and flexible, and that speaks to a variety of audiences, from patients to governing bodies. The site should be accessible and easy to navigate for both digital natives and an aging population. It must adhere to public sector accessibility rules and follow the NHS brand guidelines where necessary. You may also wish to consider any populations who require translation services. The site should make it easy for everyone to quickly find the services relevant to them and available in their area.
The website can also act as a vital resource for ICS partners and staff. It can anchor the purpose of the ICS and explain the meaning of integrated care and how each of the services fit into the wider system. It must convince staff that it will help resolve the challenges they previously faced.
A first-class ICS website can reduce communications challenges by linking professionals up with other organisations and partners. It will also showcase how working in partnership can alleviate disjointed care, repetition of labour and the feeling of working in silos.
Finally, the site will be of use to wider healthcare stakeholders, such as private clinicians, who will have a clearer view of the challenges the NHS faces, as well as the opportunities for collaborative solutions.
The Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW) Partnership were looking to redevelop their old website. They wanted the new website to also act as a training and education portal for the entire ICS.
Medico created a comprehensive, easy-to-use website with all of the necessary components for an ICS, plus an additional space where different hospitals could share courses and seminars, and advertise spare places to other hospitals. This has helped BSW make much more efficient use of their resources.
Developing an ICS website requires pulling information from a vast number of previously unlinked services and giving them a uniform, accessible style. Meticulous planning is key and can also help identify overlaps in services and where organisations may be working in silos.
The site should be built on a user-friendly content management system (CMS) that allows even inexperienced ICS staff to quickly and easily update it and ensure the people in their local area have timely and accurate information.
”Medico Digital have been a pleasure to work with from the outset. Quick to respond, comprehensive with explanations and very approachable. We have had some brilliant feedback about the new site, and we have asked for a lot of changes since its launch but nothing has been too much trouble. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the team and their work to anyone else in the NHS and beyond.”
How Medico can help you
If your area is transitioning to an Integrated Care System (ICS) and you are developing a tender request, reach out to see how Medico can help.
While they currently have no formal powers or accountabilities, there is a plan to give ICS a statutory basis as early as 2022, so now is the time to build a solid online foundation.
The team at Medico Digital are experts at optimising online spaces for healthcare services. We keep a finger on the pulse of the latest in providers’ digital responsibilities to their patients and other stakeholders.
Are you planning on commissioning a new ICS website? An efficient ICS starts with expert website design that not only ticks the boxes but goes above and beyond to facilitate integrated care. Contact us to see how we can help.