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An integrated approach to innovation within Integrated Care Systems

Written by: Sarah Dew - 7th June 2024

Integrated care is the dominant organising vision for health and care services today. The goal is that the public feel the support they receive is effectively joined up in a way that makes sense for them, and that through better integration between professional and voluntary services, we are more effective and efficient in improving population health.

As with all visions, they’re easier to imagine than they are to deliver, but there’s a lot of great examples of work underway to bring this vision to life in health and care services. For example, social prescribing programmes that integrate community activities with primary care services, or integrated employment and health programmes such as Working Win which supports people who have a health condition to find and stay in employment.

It’s not just in delivery of health and care services that we need to take an integrated approach. When it comes to innovating, a connected, partnership approach is also key.

Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber’s Innovation Hub model has been recognised nationally as an exemplar of a collaborative way of bringing partners together from across health and care providers, commissioners, academia and industry to help drive innovative improvements in health and care.

The South Yorkshire Innovation Hub was established in 2019 as a small core team hosted by Health Innovation Yorkshire and Humber, but embedded within NHS South Yorkshire, the Integrated Care Board. As the Hub Director, I act as the innovation lead for the ICB, and with the project managers in my team we drive forward priority projects on behalf of the ICB.

The success of this model led to it scaling to West Yorkshire in 2022, with a similar structure but ways of working and focus areas that our bespoke to our different contexts.

Crucial to the success of both Hubs has been the connection into the health and care systems we serve – meaning we can understand in detail their priorities and how to affect change – and the wider expertise and networks hosted by Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber, and the national Health Innovation Network.

As our recent report on our Hub model highlights, thanks to this close working relationship the Hubs have:

  • Set the innovation strategies and action plans for our ICBs, co-developed with our partners
  • Helped to leverage additional funding into our ICBs to support their innovation ambitions
  • Introduced relevant innovations to our local systems and evaluated what works to inform longer term planning

For example, in West Yorkshire, the Innovation Hub has leveraged industrial partnerships to support the delivery of the region’s Healthy Hearts programme. And across both regions, several million pounds of additional investment has been leveraged into the region with the Hub’s support.

We’ve seen real impact from developing these integrated teams across the Health Innovation Network team and our Integrated Care Boards, and hope that we’ll go on to see other blended teams working at the interface of health, care, research and innovation.

If you’re interested in our model and want to learn more about adopting it, download our Innovation Hub report.