Health and social care services in Somerset will be working even closer together to improve lives for residents following a key decision announced today. The Somerset Sustainability and Transformation Partnership has formally been designated as an Integrated Care System (ICS) after its application for ICS status was ratified by NHS England and Improvement.
An ICS enables closer collaboration of NHS organisations, local councils and other health and care partners, taking collective responsibility for managing resources, delivering effective health and care services and improving the health and wellbeing of the population it serves.
In awarding ICS status, NHS England and Improvement has recognised the strength of the Somerset partnership and the shared vision for people of Somerset to be able to live healthy and independent lives, within thriving communities.
The significant progress made together over the past few years to improve services and provide more joined-up care has also been recognised.
Pat Flaherty, chair of the Somerset ICS and chief executive of Somerset County Council said: “This is a significant step forward for health and care services in Somerset. I know all our partners are enormously proud of this achievement and the recognition of the progress we have made working together for the benefit of the people of Somerset.
“The impact of this work has never been more evident than during the last ten months, during which we’ve demonstrated our ability to respond collectively to coronavirus pandemic while prioritising the health and wellbeing of both the public and our staff.
James Rimmer, system leader of the Somerset ICS and chief executive of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “This news is a big step forward for partnership working in Somerset and is testament to the hard work and dedication of staff colleagues across all health and care services and other public sector services as well as our partners in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.
“We do not underestimate the work we still have to do, but becoming an ICS allows us to build on what we’ve done so far, which has made a real difference to the lives of local people.
“It has also been confirmed this week that NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group will no longer have special measures applied which reflects a significant amount of work and progress from staff colleagues across the CCG.”
One of the key aspects of an ICS is to provide support or care closer to people’s homes. Somerset has already committed, prioritising investment in intermediate care and community-based rapid response services. The Somerset rapid response service supports around 2,700 frail older people a year to remain at home and works closely with local voluntary organisations, such as the Red Cross, to ensure people’s social needs are also met.
Arrangements are also in place for faster discharge into intermediate care support. Somerset’s approach has resulted in a reduction in avoidable hospital admissions and reduced average length of stay, while improving outcomes for people by focussing on quality integrated reablement in an appropriate setting (usually home wherever possible).
Peter Lewis, chief executive, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “By working together in an Integrated Care System we can work differently, providing more care in people’s homes and in the community and breaking down the barriers that still exist between health and care services.”
“Through our own merger earlier this year when we combined acute, community and mental health services, we have seen how removing these barriers and working better together results in improved outcomes for patients.”
Jonathan Higman, chief executive, Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have seen first-hand how joining up services and removing artificial barriers between them benefits patients, particularly those with complex needs.
“Our Symphony Programme has brought together primary care and acute hospital services to have a positive impact for patients and to provide greater support for people to manage their own health conditions effectively. By working together as an ICS we will be able to provide better care and better outcomes for our patients.”
Dr Berge Balian, chair of the Somerset primary care board said: “As GPs and clinicians we want to support our patients to live well and, when they are ill, for them to have the best outcomes possible. By sharing our skills, knowledge and experience with partners across Somerset and working better together we can truly make a difference to the lives of our patients and their families.”
Katherine Nolan, chief executive, SPARK Somerset, said: “I am delighted that the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector are much valued partners in the Somerset ICS. We are proud to work together with health and care services in a culture of openness, support and constructive challenge to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in Somerset.”