Making sure mental health is a priority as services integrate

The College has published recommendations for local and national health and care leaders to make sure that mental health is prioritised as local areas develop into ‘Integrated Care Systems’ (ICSs).

Improving mental health services in systems of integrated and accountable care: emerging lessons and priorities” brings together opportunities and challenges for mental health services which we have heard from people working in local areas who have begun the process of evolving into ICSs.

ICSs are a new way of working that requires even greater collaboration between organisations. In an ICS NHS organisations, local councils and others take collective responsibility for:

  • delivering NHS standards
  • managing resources and
  • improving the health of the population.

This change brings opportunity for mental health services to be incorporated more fully with the wider health and care system, and for patients to benefit from more joined up care.

However, as ICSs develop, health services will be systematically reviewed and re-configured. This throws up challenges around the viability of mental health trusts, many of which might be too small to have their voice heard and could face re-organisation.

It is essential that the voices of mental health services and their patients are heard, and not diluted or fragmented and that mental health leaders’ expertise of working adaptively across complex systems is appreciated.

The recommendations focus on the following areas:

  • Establishing and maintain a clear purpose and role of ICSs
  • Engaging and collaborating during the planning process
  • Making use of population health management, data and outcomes
  • Using new contractual models to delivery high quality care
  • Funding, whole population budgets and incentives
  • Ensuring mental health can play a leading role - leadership and governance

As this is a quickly moving area, RCPsych are keen to continue to hear local area’s experiences – please get in touch via

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