NHS England (NHSE) has today confirmed the Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership (NWHCP) will become an Integrated Care System (ICS) from the 1 April 2021.

This is the culmination of many years of effort to build partnership working across the NHS, local authorities, the third sector and patient groups.

Patricia Hewitt, chair of NWHCP, said: “This is great news for the health and social care of people living in Norfolk and Waveney. By harnessing the collective power of all these different agencies working together and striving for services that will be ever more co-ordinated, patients and the public will receive better care, support and ultimately better value for the taxpayer funds spent.”

An Integrated Care System brings greater collaboration to all parts of the health and care system including GPs, hospitals, community care and social care, as well as physical and mental health services, county and district councils and the voluntary sector. People will find it easier to access services, see more joined up care delivery and staff should find it easier to work with colleagues from other organisations.

They enable health and care organisations to more effectively address their residents’ biggest health challenges, many exacerbated by COVID-19. By co-operating in their response to COVID-19, hospitals and primary care in Norfolk and Waveney have transformed the patient experience.  Many more GP and out-patient appointments have been delivered via video link with patients. Some tests previously done in hospital are now carried out by GPs saving patients journeys and reducing the risk to patients and staff of transmitting the disease.

Melanie Craig, Chief Executive Officer of NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Executive Lead for the NWHCP, said: “I’m delighted that Sir Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England has confirmed our move to become an ICS. It has taken a collective effort from the leaders and staff of our local authorities, NHS organisations, the voluntary sector and patient representatives to reach this point. Working together we will be better able to tackle health inequality, join up the care for those with multiple conditions, improve support for people with life-long illness and support children to lead healthy lives.”

The NWHCP has been making other changes to transform the patient experience. It is working to better integrate health and social care services to support elderly patients at risk of crisis who might otherwise have to be admitted to hospital. At the same time, it is developing better processes for patient discharge and support back at home or in the community for older people when they leave hospital.

Seventeen Primary Care Networks (PCNs) have been created bringing groups of GP practices together with the aim of improving care and health for the population at a 'neighbourhood' level, to help people stay safe and well at home and make primary care more resilient. 

Primary Care Networks have the potential to benefit patients by offering improved access to an extended range of services, recruitment of additional health staff, and by helping to integrate primary care with wider health and community services.

The three acute trusts in Norfolk and Waveney, James Paget University Hospitals (JPUH), Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn (QEHKL), recently announced that they have agreed to operate single clinical teams across all three sites to deliver urology services, whilst JPUH and NNUH run the Norfolk and Waveney Ear, Nose and Throat service.

These are just a few of the tangible changes made possible by partnership working and which will be further developed by NWHCP when it becomes an ICS.