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The more the merrier (and wiser!)

Clare Woodford

As the new Integrated Care Systems get underway in difficult circumstances, Clare Woodford from Macmillan Cancer Support reflects on how National Voices membership has created opportunities to shape the rollout of the reforms.

  • National Voices’ Conference on ICSs
  • Integrated care

After a bleak two years it’s great to be celebrating National Voices reaching an incredible 200 members!

The power of the coalition is that it brings together charities of all shapes and sizes and amplifies our voice, providing all-important insight and back-up.

Take influencing the rollout of the new Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), a long-standing National Voices priority. ICSs bring together local health and care partners. Some have been around for a long time, however they’ve only been in their new statutory form [INTERNAL LINK] since July. For all of us in Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations they are important partners for contracting, commissioning and co-delivering services and planning local healthcare. And it’s a two-way street – for ICSs, tapping into our sector’s expertise and relationships offers huge benefit.

Making sense of local structures

Each system is emerging differently, as they should, reflecting diverse local communities. But for national charities like Macmillan that’s a challenge too. Many charities are reduced and reshaped after a tough pandemic period and it’s hard to know where to start with these new structures. Making sense of the ICS architecture [INTERNAL LINK] – Integrated Care Boards and Partnerships, placed-based partnerships and provider collaboratives – requires a translator. And that’s before you even start thinking about cancer alliances, other clinical networks and additional parts of the system. It’s mind-blowing.

That’s why Macmillan has embarked on a project to map how and where cancer fits into the new ICS structures and appointments. Our aim is to build the confidence and capacity of our brilliant teams so that they can influence the rollout of cancer plans, integration strategies and partner effectively with local systems. Our ultimate goal is for everyone to benefit from more joined up, person-centred care –whether they are undergoing cancer treatment (potentially on top of other health conditions) and face a bewildering mix of GP and specialist appointments, or need community-based hospice care.

There have been well-publicised teething problems, however its worth remembering that we are all on a journey. NHS and local authority staff, working under intense pressure, are also trying to get their heads around the changes. However, the prospect of better joined up services is surely a goal we’d all get behind. For ICSs to be genuine, effective partnerships they need to work with local people as patients, citizens and advocates from the start. VCSE organisations representing the breadth and richness of the voluntary sector should also be at the table.

National Voices partnership

We have hugely valued the information, support and collaboration that the National Voices coalition has brought. Its early intervention helped deliver stronger patient-public involvement and a bigger role for VCSE organisations in the legislation. National Voices has continued to bang the drum for our sector as the reforms are implemented. It’s brought our charity community together with health and care stakeholders for ongoing conversations: its June ICS conference demonstrated the huge insight National Voices members bring to systems. And now as ICSs embark on an ambitious agenda with looming deadlines, we need National Voices’ clear steer to continue to help us understand these complex structures and where we can best add value. At Macmillan we don’t have all the answers – so ongoing opportunities for National Voices members to come together and pool our collective knowledge is also vital. I’m looking forward to the next milestone – celebrating with 300 members!