Integrated Care Systems will be required to have “smart digital and data” platforms in place by April 2022.

NHS England’s design framework for how Integrated Care Systems (ICS) will operate revealed systems will locally determine the best way to develop digital and data capabilities.

Decision makers will be required to ensure these platforms are available “at system and place level, and across provider collaboratives”.

“We expect digital and data experts to have a pivotal role in ICSs, supporting transformation and ensuring health and care partners provide a modern operating environment to support their workforce, citizens and populations,” the framework states.

“From April 2022, systems will need to have smart digital and data foundations in place. The way that these capabilities are developed and delivered will vary from system to system.”

Standards for digital and data will be based on the upcoming NHSX ‘What good looks like’ framework, which aims to set out a common vision to accelerate digital transformation in health and care.

System leaders will be asked to develop a digital and data transformation plan to achieve ‘What good looks like’ and “enables a cross system approach to transformation”.

A senior responsible office (SRO) will be expected to be put in place in every ICS with the purpose of overseeing governance and accountability of digital strategies.

Shared care records and cross-system data sharing will underpin the core purpose of ICSs, which are set to be put on a statutory footing under the governments upcoming white paper for health and care.

ICSs have been in the pipeline for the NHS for a number of years, but the white paper cements their role in the health and care setting. The bill, due to be brought to parliament later this year, will see legislature introduced to ensure every part of England would be covered by ICS in a bid to ensure more joined-up care, better integration, and reduced bureaucracy.

The bill also aims to embed lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and reduce red tape around procurement and data sharing.

It will “modernise the legal framework” to make the health system “fit for the future”, the Department of Health and Social Care said in February.

The plans follow health secretary Matt Hancock’s ‘bureaucracy-busting mission’,  which aims to improve the use of data within the NHS.

The plan on data

This week the government published its draft data strategy to capitalise on work using health data during the pandemic – underpinning the aims of the white paper.

According to the draft strategy ‘Data Saves Lives: Reshaping health and social care with data’, patients will have more control over their health data with easier access to their test results; medication lists; procedures; and care plans from across all parts of the health system through patient apps, such as the NHS App.

But privacy campaigners and patient groups labelled it a “rush job”, calling for protection of “NHS patients ahead of the demands of those keen to turn a profit”.

They’ve called for clarity over who will have access to data and how it will be used.