Skills for Care

What does integration in health and social care mean?

04 May 2023

5 min read

Skills for Care

  • Integration

We break down what integration in health and social care means and the different levels of Integrated Care Systems.

What does integration mean for health and social care?

Integrated care is about joint working across different health and care service providers – such as social care providers, health providers, and housing schemes - to provide seamless and joined up person-centred care.

This means that people only have to tell their story once to get the high-quality care and support they need from different sources to live the lives they want.

All these services can work together through their Integrated Care System (ICS) to join up the care and support they provide locally. 


What are Integrated Care Systems?

Integrated care systems (ICSs) are partnerships that bring together social care providers, local government, the NHS, voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCSFE) organisations, and other partners to improve the lives of people who live and work in their area.

ICSs have four core purposes: 

  • Improve outcomes in population health and healthcare. 
  • Tackle inequalities in outcomes, experience, and access.
  • Enhance productivity and value for money.
  • Help the NHS support broader social and economic development.

Following the passing of the Health and Care Act (2022), 42 ICSs were established on 1 July 2022 to cover every area of England.  


The structure of Integrated Care Systems

Each ICS includes an integrated care board (ICB) and integrated care partnership (ICP).


Integrated Care Board (ICB)

The ICB is responsible for bringing NHS and other partners together to plan and deliver integrated health and care services and is accountable for the finances and performance of the local system. 


Integrated Care Partnership(ICP)

The ICP is a committee jointly formed between the ICB and the relevant local authorities within the ICS area. The ICP brings together the broad alliance of partners and is responsible for producing an integrated care strategy on how to meet the health and wellbeing needs of the population in the ICS area. 

Within the ICB and ICP there are also sub-groups:

  • Provider collaboratives: partnerships that bring together two or more NHS trusts to work together at scale.


  • Health and wellbeing boards: a forum where political, clinical, professional and community leaders from across the care and health system come together to improve the health and wellbeing of their local population and reduce health inequalities.


  • Place-based partnerships: partnerships made up of professionals from the NHS, local government, voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCSFE) organisations, and social care providers. They exist to make more effective use of the combined resources available within a local area. Within place-based partnerships, even more-localised arrangements are being established around ‘neighbourhoods’, where multi-provider teams can come together to deliver better joined-up, proactive and personalised care.


  • Primary care networks: a network for local GPs pharmacists, dentists, and opticians to come together to organise their services.


How can social care employers can get involved with their ICS?

The best way to get involved is with your local placed-based partnership, by: 

  • joining the main local placed-based partnership as an individual.
  • joining the main local placed-based partnership as a group, such as a local care association or registered manager, deputy manager or nominated individual network.
  • joining one of the sub-groups or ‘neighbourhoods’ of the place-based partnership as an individual or network.
  • finding out who to connect with who is already engaged with the place-based partnership in an area, seeking to be kept informed of opportunities and developments.  

You can find out more about the place-based partnership in your area by contacting your Skills for Care locality manager


Why social care provider involvement is important

While the establishment of many ICSs are still in their early stages, many are starting to establish ways of working across systems, including planning for care and support in their areas through their first 5-year joint forward plans (JFPs). Which is why it’s vital that social care providers are involved with their local ICS now, to ensure that social care is better understood and relationships are formed to create the conditions for successful partnership working.


Watch our video for an overview of ICSs, their structure and responsibilities, and how you can get involved. 


Duration 00:02:25


Find more information and resources on our #UnderstandingIntegration webpage.

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