The NHS has undergone some dramatic changes over the last decade to unify healthcare and improve the overall quality of care they provide patients. One of the biggest changes is the implementation of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to bring together health bodies and improve the quality and delivery of healthcare across the NHS. ICSs pose a notable change in how the NHS functions as a whole, which impacts how suppliers and procurement interact with health bodies. In this article, we’re going to learn how ICSs impact public health suppliers.

What are integrated care systems?

The NHS has changed over time, as it was initially set up to handle acute treatments for specific illnesses. As the demographics of the UK shift towards older people and individuals with chronic conditions, the NHS requires different tools and strategies to deliver suitable care for these patients. They are much more likely to provide care to people over the long-term, helping them in their homes and empowering entire communities – rather than focusing on the episodic treatment of illnesses. To do this effectively, ICSs have been implemented to help bring care together in a unified way.

ICSs bring in systems at the local healthcare level, with an aim to cater to groups of 1 to 3 million people. These systems are further categorised into places that make up anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 people, which again breaks down into neighbourhoods which cover 30,000 to 50,000 people. In England, there are 42 different systems which are covered by an ICS such as the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership ICS.
Although each ICS will be set up for specific areas and their needs, the framework will generally consist of teams that bring commissioning and provider organisations together to improve things at the system level. So, ICSs work as hubs for healthcare leadership for regions and take on the mantle of clinical commissioning groups.

How smart procurement works for ICSs and how this affects suppliers

This new framework for the NHS comes with new methods of procurement – with smart procurement looking to address the needs of entire care pathways rather than targeted areas. This takes lots of different factors into account, including failure rates, infection rates and more. Procurement teams not only consider these factors, but the long-term goals of the care pathway, ranging from lowered hospital bills to a push for care at home.

Another important area for development in smart procurement is the push for social value. This focuses on pushing the NHS as an anchor institution for communities and is a natural progression for ICSs as it allows for greater support of social and economic development in communities. It looks beyond the norm of patient care and extends towards things like setting up patient transport services to bolster communities and patients.

The implementation of smart procurement has raised a new challenge for suppliers, as they need to consider the entire landscape of healthcare when supplying innovative new products or services. Ideally, suppliers should focus on finding integrated pathways that help across multiple areas of care, from reduced hospital visits to improved surgical outcomes. Successful bids moving forward understand ICSs on a comprehensive level and will point to ways that the new goods or services help push for a more connected healthcare pathway.

Looking at how ICSs spend their money is a good place to look at how suppliers are impacted by these changes. South West London Health & Care Partnership, for example, established a £55 million contract for IT services. This is a running theme across ICSs – so suppliers that provide primary IT services stand to do very well.

This has the potential to be greatly beneficial to suppliers that can demonstrate their ability to make a positive impact on the healthcare economy as a whole. When suppliers consider integrated pathways that go beyond point-of-care treatment, they’ll be much more likely to win bids. By looking at the costs of services and goods across the entire healthcare pathway, it’s easier to find savings while still improving patient outcomes. It also creates ample opportunity to earn substantial bids by knowing which ICSs are procuring heavily in a particular area.

It’s clear that ICSs are changing how healthcare is delivered throughout communities, so it’s vital that suppliers adapt to these changes if they want to successfully win bids. Understanding how to effectively handle things like smart procurement and looking at entire care pathways is essential for suppliers if they want to compete for bids successfully. As a whole, though, these changes are all for the better – for patients, communities and healthcare.


  • Aditi Sathe

    Aditi, Marketing Executive at ELCOM, is a passionate marketer who loves promoting brands. With a rich 6+ years of experience in building and promoting various brands, Aditi has evolved as a techno-marketer. At ELCOM, Aditi is responsible for increasing the digital footprint and supporting the growth of ELCOM across UK and internationally.

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