Role of an Integrated Care System during COVID-19 and beyond: a qualitative study with recommendations to inform future development

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OBJECTIVE: Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) have recently been implemented across England to better meet health and social care needs through partnership working between clinical commissioning groups, local authorities, and health and social care providers. This qualitative study aimed to explore insights into the COVID-19 response at an ICS level and inform recommendations for ICS development.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Interviews and focus groups were conducted with 19 senior health and social care professionals who were members of one ICS. A reflexive thematic analysis was conducted to develop key themes and recommendations for ICSs.

RESULTS: Working together across health and social care, responding to a prolonged crisis, managing expectations and developing the ICS formed the four master themes. Notable subthemes included changing professional roles and responsibilities, communicating and coordinating COVID-19 guidance, the availability of system resources, the local versus national contexts and a need to combat health inequalities.

CONCLUSION: The unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 moved health and social care partners to work together like never before, and at a very quick pace. Our findings confirm that intentional collaboration must be maintained in leading and delivering effective ICSs. ICS partners, together with the public, must now agree a shared vision for health and social care as a priority. A long-term focus to improve population health and reduce health inequalities will require a cultural shift and will place a new type of demand on resource allocation and sourcing. It will also demand public health leadership, a fully coordinated infrastructure, and comprehensive, ongoing evaluation. In parallel to this, the well-being of the health and social care workforce will need to be addressed to build upon the lessons of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000112
Number of pages9
JournalIntegrated healthcare journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use
is non-commercial. See:


Funding for this study was provided by Warwickshire County Council, UK (no award/grant number).


  • COVID-19
  • Decision making
  • Crisis management


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