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Integrated Care Systems, Frequently Asked Questions

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April 2022

What is an Integrated Care System?

An Integrated Care System, or ICS, is a new way of working which brings together all the health and care organisations in an area, including the NHS, councils, Healthwatch and voluntary groups. 

The aim of the ICS system is to remove barriers between the NHS, councils and the voluntary sector so that they can work together. Examples of joint working could include monitoring care homes, or providing the money needed to help people avoid hospital stays.

The aim of this closer working is to improve people’s experiences of health and care.

The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent area has its own ICS, which is one of 42 across England. It will officially begin work in July 2022.

Each ICS will be made up of an Integrated Care Board (ICB) and an Integrated Care Partnership (ICP), which work together.

What are the main purposes of an ICS?

  • improving people’s health and healthcare 
  • tackling unequal outcomes and access
  • improving productivity and value for money
  • helping the NHS to support broader social and economic development

What is an Integrated Care Board?

An NHS Integrated Care Board, or ICB, is responsible for planning and overseeing NHS health and care services for a local area.

It receives funding from the national NHS and buys NHS services for the local population, including hospitals, GP services and voluntary contracts. It also monitors these services.

All ICBs, including the ICB for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, will have a chair, a chief executive and ‘partner’ members from local councils, NHS trusts and general practice.

The ICB will deliver the strategy developed by the Integrated Care Partnership (hyperlink to question below).

What is an Integrated Care Partnership?

An Integrated Care Partnership, or ICP, is responsible for the overall health and care strategy of an area, such as Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

It assesses the health, public health and social care needs in the area and produces a strategy to meet those needs. That strategy will help the ICB to plan health services and local councils to plan social care services. 

The ICP is a committee, made up of partners from the local area, including voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations and independent healthcare providers, as well as representatives of the ICS board. 

What is the Health and Care Bill?

The Bill outlines changes to how the NHS will work in England in the future, including the new ICS system.

Why was the Health and Care Bill brought in and what will it do?

Collaborative, or joint working, between health and social care has been taking place for many years. The Health and Care Bill catches up with these changes and puts this way of working into law.

The Bill outlines how our health services and social care services will be run under the new ICS system. If the Bill goes through Parliament successfully, the ICS will be officially launched in July 2022.

What will be different for local people?

In our area, we will have a new Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Partnership and Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Board.

These new organisations will oversee changes in how healthcare is delivered. While many of these will happen behind the scenes, over time, local people should see services improve. Changes should include:

  • more joined-up and better care 
  • reduced inequalities so that everyone has fair access to high quality services wherever they live
  • help for people to improve their own health and wellbeing 
  • people and patients placed at the heart of decisions about health and care services
  • services available closer to the people who use them
  • focus on care provided in the community so people can live independent, healthy lives
  • support for personalised care, with more choice and personal budgets to help people manage long-term conditions.

How long will it take for improvements in patient care?

Work is already taking place in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to deliver better and more joined up care for our local population.

This is a long-term plan and there is more work to do but integrated working has already led to improvements across the country and locally.

How will the new system ensure patients’ voices are heard?

We have been working with the public and community groups to develop a new approach to working with people and communities that will support continual engagement and making sure the public voice is heard at every level of the organisation. 

We will use a range of channels and approaches to listen to the community, targeting our approach to ensure it is fair and accessible to all, and embed this in our governance structures so that the public voice is at the heart of decision making. 

For more information about how you can get involved and have your say, please visit our website


Jargon care terms explained

Community health services

A wide range of care to support patients, usually in their own homes, provided by nurses, therapists, GPs and social care. They can include helping people to manage long-term conditions and treating people who are seriously ill with complex conditions. 

Integrated care

Health and care organisations, including hospitals, GPs, councils and voluntary organisations, working together.

Local authority

A local council.

NHS Long-Term Plan 

A plan for the future of the NHS, designed using feedback from staff and patients. Many of the changes have been included in the Health and Care Bill.

Primary Care Networks (PCNs)

Groups of GP practices which work with each other and with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital, and voluntary services in their local areas. 

Provider collaboratives 

Networks of NHS organisations, including hospitals, community teams and mental health teams, which deliver your care.