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In February, we’ve been involved in meetings with the Health and Social Care network and with Social Prescribers. Also on a health theme, I have attended webinars focused on changes in health structure and implications for the voluntary and community sector, which I thought I would share with you.

It certainly takes some time to get your head around the changes taking place and the NHS jargon: ICP, STP, PCN to name just a few of the acronyms. But I thought it would be useful to share some of the information gathered from these sessions, including some explanation of the definitions:

PCN – Primary Care Networks: Brings general practices together to work at scale focused on service delivery, providing a wider range of primary care services. Primary Care Networks are expected to think about the wider health of the population, assessing the needs of their local population to identify people who would benefit from targeted, proactive support.

ICS – Integrated Care System: Is focused on the integration of trusts, commissioners, local authorities working collaboratively to provide joined up support to meet the needs across an area. The ICS coordinates services and plans to improve population health and reduce inequalities between different groups. The ICS Board has clear accountability for resources and making effective decisions. These systems replace the CCGs - Clinical Commissioning Groups, that are considered to be too small and are currently responsible for commissioning most of the hospital and community NHS services in the local areas for which they are responsible. The ICS will become a formal body with a strong partnership with the local authority.

STP – Sustainable Transformation Partnership: Brings together NHS, local authorities and other health and care organisations to collaboratively determine the future of their health and care system. STP’s are responsible for moving the integration agenda forward.

SP – Social Prescribing: A way for local agencies to refer people to a link worker. Link workers give people time, focusing on ‘what matters to me’, and take a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. They connect people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.

Commissioning of services is changing with the focus on population health, prevention, addressing health inequalities and partnership working. Advice for those VCS organisations hoping to get commissions from health is – show how you are affecting the health of the population, evidence what you are doing, have advocates and allies in GP’s, local authority and voluntary and community sector and show that you can make a difference.

There is a recognition now that the voluntary and community sector has become more visible during COVID-19 and that there is an opportunity for the sector to build on that by demonstrating the difference it can make. Housing, poverty and vulnerabilities are now acknowledged as being as important as an illness and will be key issues that need addressing over the next 12 months.

The NHS cannot do this on its own. Social Prescribers are seen as having an important role as part of the recovery process from COVID-19, putting patients views forward, taking an interest and having time to listen to patients and identify what community groups can do to help with a solution. There is agreement that the VCS should be involved in the ICS because of their knowledge and experience, as well as the health and wellbeing support they provide in local communities.

Let’s hope that this is a reality across all ICS’s.

Stay safe



Ann Atkinson 2

Ann Atkinson

Assembly Development Officer





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