Piecing Together the NHS Integration Puzzle

Published: 27th March 2018

In this article, our Mental Health Lead, Jenny Welling-Palmer, looks at how innovation can support integration in the NHS.

Transformation, integration and change are three words synonymous with the NHS. The integration agenda has been a priority of healthcare leaders and politicians for a number of years now, evident through the recent evolution of vanguards and pioneers, to sustainability & transformation partnerships and most recently to integrated care systems (ICSs).

Professor Chris Ham, CEO of the Kings Fund, wrote a progress report last month on the ICSs [1], following their report last year[2] on delivering sustainability & transformation partnerships. The Kings Fund is well placed to make recommendations, given they are closely working with all 10 of the ICSs.

The ICSs vary in population size from 300,000 up to 2.7million; these are large health economies. In his progress report, Chris highlighted eight development needs that ICSs must address in order to be successful.

The recommendations

The eight developments include aligning commissioning behind the plans of the system, planning for a system control total and financial risk sharing, and developing trust and relationships among and between leadership teams. Chris notes that addressing these eight development needs are time consuming and cannot be rushed. Progress by the ICSs highlight the stark realities of integration; it is messy, complex and hard, hard work. It requires long-term grit and focus to develop new ways of working across multiple swim lanes from clinical pathways to finance to IT systems to the reconfiguration of teams to name but a few. But there is another side to integration, that support and coexists with large-scale system changes such as the ICSs: innovation.

What innovation?

There are many great examples of innovations already out in the market place that support the NHS and social care. These include clinical innovations such as Dip.io that provide patients with clinically accurate urine analysis from home, Lantum, a cloud-based tool to help Trusts fill empty shifts in clinical rota’s, and WaitLess, which guides patients to the fastest place to access urgent care services for minor conditions[3].

We like to think of our telecom-based referral management tool in the innovation and integration category too. By providing GPs with immediate access to local trust-based specialty clinicians, we facilitate a quick and informative clinician to clinician conversation that results in reduced referrals to secondary care, money saved to the NHS, and very importantly, a better patient experience. Our tech solution and data reporting solutions are now used by over 50 CCGs and 37 Trusts in England across physical and mental health specialties. Mobilization is not a problem for us; we can get up and running in as little as 48 hours.

Whilst we recognize the national scale of the challenge, we remain passionate about continuing to support the NHS with our piece of the integration puzzle.  

Jenny Welling-Palmer is the Mental Health lead at Consultant Connect. She previously worked as Managing Director for Beacon UK, an innovative mental health system integrator that works in collaboration with the NHS. Prior to this Jenny held a number of strategic and operational roles in a number of large teaching hospitals. If you are interested in understanding better how our service can help Mental healthcare provision in your area. Please contact us on 01865 261467 or email hello@consultantconnect.org.uk.

[1] https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/making-sense-integrated-care-systems#acos
[2] https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/STPs_proposals_to_plans_Kings_Fund_Feb_2017_0.pdf [3] https://nhsaccelerator.com/world-best-innovations-supporting-primary-care-urgent-emergency-care-join-nhs-innovation-accelerator/

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