The vision, as described in the ICS strategy, is for everyone in Cheshire and Merseyside to have a great start in life and get the support they need to stay healthy and live longer.

This will be achieved by working together as equal partners, to tackle health inequalities and improve the lives of the poorest fastest.

Joining up health and care is nothing new – we have been working towards this for some years, and we want to continue to build on this excellent work. This includes further strengthening the incredible joint working we have seen throughout the COVID -19 pandemic, which has made a massive difference to the lives of local people and their families.

The four key strategic objectives:

1. Improve population health and healthcare

2. Tackle health inequality, improving outcomes and access to services

3. Enhancing quality, productivity and value for money

4. Helping the NHS to support broader social and economic development

We all want the very best health and wellbeing for our families, friends, communities and for ourselves. And when we need to access health and care services, we want these to provide us with the best care and the best outcomes.

Prior to the COVID -19, the Cheshire and Merseyside ICS engaged extensively across the partnership to understand the key health and wellbeing issues for our people and communities.

This engagement reinforced that we need to address several significant and well documented challenges. These are not unique to Cheshire and Merseyside, although some problems are worse for us locally.

Stroke, suicide, alcohol related harm and death from violent crime were all identified for targeted whole system action, together with better access to services in deprived communities.

To achieve the vision, the ICS will need to make some tough decisions. But we must be resolute in our ambition to collaborate to deliver improved health and wellbeing of the 2.5m people of all ages living across our communities.

We have seen that it can be done. Throughout the pandemic, a shared purpose has enabled us all to fully appreciate each partner’s contribution. It’s vital to build on this as we consider our future ways of working.

New terminologies

An Integrated Care System (ICS) brings together the NHS organisations, councils, and wider partners in a defined geographical area to deliver more joined up approaches to improving health & care outcomes.

There are 42 ICSs in England, including Cheshire and Merseyside, which is one of the largest in the country.

From April 2022, the Cheshire and Merseyside ICS will have legal status and will include a statutory Integrated Care Partnership (ICP), and a new NHS body called the Integrated Care Board (ICB). These are described in more detail below.

Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) will be established as new statutory organisations to lead integration within the NHS. The Cheshire and Merseyside ICB will have a unitary board and minimum requirements for board membership will be set in legislation.

The Integrated Care Board will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside, including planning and buying healthcare services.

The current functions of Cheshire and Merseyside’s nine clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will be transferred to the Integrated Care Board by April 2022, following their closure.

The Integrated Care Partnership will provide a forum for NHS leaders and local authorities (LAs) to come together, as equal partners, alongside important stakeholders from across Cheshire and Merseyside.

Together, the ICP will generate an integrated care strategy to improve health and care outcomes and experiences for the people in Cheshire and Merseyside, for which all partners will be accountable.

The ICP will be a dedicated forum to enhance relationships between the leaders across the health and care system, interact with and support the development of Place-Based Partnerships.

The Cheshire and Merseyside ICB will arrange for some of its functions to be delivered, and decisions about NHS funding to be made, in the region’s 9 borough places – through Place-Based Partnerships.

The ICB will remain accountable for NHS resources deployed at borough place-level. Each ICB will set out the role of designated place-based leaders within its governance arrangements.

Health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) will continue to develop the joint strategic needs assessment and joint health and wellbeing strategy, which both the ICP and ICB will give due regard.

Providers of health, care and support services will increasingly collaborate at all levels of the system. This is nothing new; there are some great examples of joined-up provider working, especially during the Covid pandemic. However, the current rules don’t always encourage provider collaboration.

There are two separate Provider Collaboratives for Cheshire & Merseyside.

  • The Cheshire and Merseyside Acute and Specialist Trust (CMAST)
  •  Mental Health, Community, Learning Disability collaborative (MHLDSC)

Both will agree specific objectives with the ICB, to contribute to the delivery of Cheshire and Merseyside’s strategic priorities and are committed to working together to support the delivery of benefits of scale and mutual aid across multiple places or systems.

Further information

NHS England and Improvement continues to publish guidance documents setting out how NHS leaders and organisations should operate with their partners in Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) from April 2022.

Graham Urwin has been appointed to the position of Designate Chief Executive of the Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board (ICB). The next step will be to recruit Non-Executive Members and Executive Directors to the ICB over the coming weeks