New project to ‘unlock prevention’ within ICSs

Joint project to explore opportunities and obstacles to developing at-scale preventative health and care systems.

15 February 2024

The NHS Confederation, University of StirlingUniversity of Southampton and Newton have launched a research project to understand the barriers to unlocking at-scale preventative health and care within integrated care systems (ICSs). 

The project takes forward recommendations made by the Hewitt review to prioritise ill health prevention as a key driver for improvements in population health outcomes. The NHS Confederation is well placed to help support local systems to unlock examples of good prevention practice and facilitate scalable learning and improvement within systems, a key priority for our members. 

The research will map prevention work being undertaken at system, place and neighbourhood levels and the barriers that exist to collaborative prevention. The research team, professors Paul Cairney (University of Stirling) and John Boswell (University of Southampton), will conduct focus groups with system, place and neighbourhood leaders involved in prevention work locally.

Drawing on the research undertaken by the academics and the insight and expertise of Newton, we will publish a report and a toolkit with practical examples and guidance on how local health and care leaders can overcome barriers to shifting focus and resource towards preventing ill health. 

Get involved

We are seeking volunteers to participate in the research and are particularly interested in hearing from people directly involved in delivering or overseeing preventative care and interventions, including:

  • system leaders, including from integrated care boards and integrated care partnerships
  • place leaders including those from voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, local government, patient organisations and all types of health and care providers
  • neighbourhood leaders, including from primary care.

'Preventing ill health'

Discussing the project, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“Integrated care systems will play a key role in shifting resources towards preventing ill health and reducing avoidable exacerbation to support communities to live long and healthy lives. I encourage health and care leaders at system, place and neighborhood levels working on preventing ill health to seize the opportunity to participate in this important project, which will support them to adopt best practice and crucially shift to upstream preventions and interventions.”

Professor Paul Cairney (University of Stirling) and professor John Boswell (University of Southampton), said:

"We are very pleased to be undertaking this work with the NHS Confederation. We have both long been interested in the political challenges associated with good faith efforts to make public policy more preventive and more collaborative. We look forward to working with system leaders to get a better sense of how the new arrangements for integrated care are impacting the prevention agenda in practice, and what practical steps can be taken to push forward the agenda locally."

Ric Whalley, partner at Newton, said:

“We are excited to be supporting this project in collaboration with NHS Confederation, colleagues from the University of Stirling University and University of Southampton. Our work involves partnering with health and care systems to identify the root causes of their most complex challenges. Then we work together, from leadership to the frontline, to deliver measurable impact that lasts. We know that leaders grapple with significant challenges in unlocking the benefits of prevention for their communities, and yet the imperative behind prevention at scale has never been greater. This project will provide the tools to start addressing the barriers that may now seem insurmountable.”

Find out more

If you are interested in getting involved or learning more about this project, please contact Annie Bliss, policy adviser at the NHS Confederation.