Building mentally healthier integrated care systems

21 October 2021
Ed Davie

By Ed Davie

Earlier this week, Centre for Mental Health published a new policy briefing to support integrated care systems ensure better conditions for mental health.

Covering the whole of England, 42 integrated care systems bring all NHS organisations and upper tier local authorities in a geographical area together to plan health and care.

From April 2022 these systems will become statutory organisations with duties set out in the Health and Care Bill currently progressing through parliament.

Integrated care systems can improve the mental health of their local communities by:

  • Linking meaningfully with communities and councils
  • Getting Living Wage Foundation accreditation
  • Supporting social value procurement – buying more goods and services locally and from at-risk groups
  • Improving the physical environment including access to genuinely affordable housing, active travel, and green spaces like parks
  • Screening for social needs, like poverty, and ensuring excellent socially prescribed support
  • Assessing and reducing health inequalities, including the physical health outcomes of people with mental ill health
  • Tackling discrimination
  • Providing mentally healthier working conditions for health and care workers
  • Delivering parity between mental and physical health services
  • Supporting delivery of the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework
  • Ensuring continuity of care for those leaving the criminal justice system.



Covid-19 and the measures to contain it have worsened mental health and increased demand for services that were already struggling.

Whilst high quality services are vital, research suggests that health care accounts for as little as 10% of health outcomes. The size and nature of the challenge means that treatment alone cannot manage this crisis – integrated care systems must also address the environmental and social determinants that contribute to the other 90%.

If integrated care systems use their economic, social and environmental powers and influence, as well as providing excellent services, they can take significant steps to prevent ill health and support their communities more effectively.

Centre for Mental Health is currently working with the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and others to realise these objectives and looks forward to sharing learning and supporting other areas.

If you would like to join a network of people interested in supporting integrated care systems in these ways, sign up to our new mailing list to hear more.

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