19 October 2021
England’s 42 integrated care systems have an opportunity to protect and promote mental health in the communities they serve, according to a briefing paper published today by Centre for Mental Health.
Better together, by Ed Davie, explores how integrated care systems can address the social and environmental factors that affect people’s health in their communities.
Integrated care systems will take statutory responsibility for planning health services across England from April 2022. They cover areas with an average population of more than one million.
Better together shows how integrated care systems can look beyond the delivery of health and care services to improve wellbeing and reduce inequalities in their local areas. For example they can ensure NHS trusts and local councils become Living Wage employers, and they can buy more goods and services locally. This can help to reduce poverty and increase financial wellbeing. They can seek to influence local planning as well, improving housing quality, increasing access to safe walking, cycling and public transport, and addressing flood and other climate risks. These are all major factors affecting people’s mental and physical health.
Better together also explores some of the challenges and opportunities facing integrated care systems in the coming months. They include joining up fragmented mental and physical health care, supporting the wellbeing of the health and care workforce, and providing continuity of care for people in the criminal justice system.
Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “Integrated care systems are powerful new institutions. They will be responsible for billions of pounds of NHS funding. And they will wield a big influence in their local areas. They have a unique opportunity now to look broadly at how they can generate better health for all of their citizens and communities.
“Integrated care systems have been established to bring about better health and care, to improve collaboration between organisations, and to tackle health inequalities. If they just look inwards, they will miss vital opportunities to promote wellbeing and tackle the causes of ill health. Looking outwards, seeing that the solutions lie in their communities and their people, will enable them to make a real difference and achieve better health for all.”