Blog post

The importance of networking for systems

Matthew Taylor on how we're equipping integrated care systems to thrive, ensuring that they deliver real benefits for their populations.
Matthew Taylor

21 February 2022

We are at a crucial and exciting turning point in health and care. The government has listened to the voices of leaders across the health and care sector and is embarking upon reforms towards integration which they – our members – have long wished to see.

At the heart of these reforms, of course, are integrated care systems (ICSs) and the months ahead will be pivotal to their success. 

Peer support, networking and the opportunity for ICS leaders and partners to share challenges, best practice, knowledge and understanding, is going to be a key part of this success going forward. Every ICS is different and they can all learn and build from each other. 

At the NHS Confederation, we offer the only independent national network for ICSs. Our ICS Network is, simply, here to equip systems across the country to thrive, ensuring that they deliver real benefits for their populations. Let me explain how.  

Voice

First, it will be essential that the voice of those leading ICSs are heard as government and NHS England determine the future legislative and policy landscape. That is why we have been at the forefront of efforts to influence policy at the highest levels through regular meetings with national stakeholders. Already, we have been successful in influencing the detail of key guidance, notably including the ICS Design Framework and the ICS Model Constitution, to ensure that it is proportionate and allows for local flexibility. 

Influence

We believe system leaders must be given the freedom and autonomy to lead

Secondly, we are also leading ongoing efforts to influence national legislation. Through regular ministerial meetings, for instance, we are pressing for amendments to the health and care bill. We remain hopeful of limiting proposed new powers for the Secretary of State on decisions regarding local services, as we believe system leaders must be given the freedom and autonomy to lead. We have also been successful in influencing the recent integration white paper on behalf of our members, for example by pressing hard against early proposals for mandatory single health and care budgets.

Learning   

Thirdly, we must ensure that system leaders are able to challenge, and learn from, each other. Our ICS Network provides a full programme of webinars, meetings, roundtables, private Spotlight sessions, and our online conferences, offering that safe space for ICS Leaders to meet, talk and share as they work towards statutory status and beyond. Our leadership development programme, co-produced with leaders and others, will be launched later this year.

As we know, collaboration and partnership are the key to the success of systems, and with our networks across the NHS Confederation, representing every aspect of the health system, our members have that unique opportunity to connect and talk with each other. NHSConfed Expo in June, for example, will have keynote speakers, workshops and networking opportunities for everyone in the health and social care field, offering a unique event and opportunity to meet up with colleagues and learn from peers. 

Of course, ICSs becoming statutory from July 2022 is not the end of the journey. Rather, it is just the beginning and all of our networks will be supporting our members across health and care as you embark on this exciting journey with the new integrated care systems. 

Matthew Taylor is chief executive of the NHS Confederation. Follow Matthew on Twitter @FRSAMatthew