Leadership support for the AQuA Integrated Care Discovery Communities

Working with AQuA, we provided expert leadership input to the Integrated Care Discovery Community, a programme designed to facilitate the development of integrated health and social care. Our approach has helped to create a self-sustaining community of practice where the learning is being fed back into the wider system.

The Advancing Quality Alliance (AQuA) is an NHS health and care quality improvement organisation in the north-west of England, with more than 70 member organisations.

In September 2012, AQuA launched its Integrated Care Discovery Community, a programme designed to facilitate the development of integrated health and social care. The programme supported eight communities in the north-west to develop their ambitions to integrate health and social care for their populations, with a particular focus on services for older people with multiple needs. A further 11 communities joined the second phase of the programme a year later.

When the first phase of the programme was launched, there were few local or national leadership role models with experience of leading system or service integration, and traditional leadership development and change programmes did not appear to equip leaders adequately for leadership of integrated systems.

AQuA asked The King’s Fund to work with them to provide expert leadership input to the Integrated Care Discovery Community programme.

Our approach

Working collaboratively with AQuA and the discovery communities, we created a year-long team-based development programme. Modules combined learning on issues such as governance, contracting and integrated care models, with development sessions on leadership skills and improvement science methods. Group coaching ran alongside the modules and provided tailored support for the discovery communities.

All the teams came to the programme with a real-life project or challenge that they wanted to work through. The programme design was innovative and flexible, grounded in the practical application of theory and skills to specific complex problems, and adapted to the emerging needs of the teams. This ensured we could provide the most appropriate input for the communities as a group and respond to the developing needs of each individual team.

Our approach meant that leadership teams learned from and with each other, as well as gaining new knowledge, skills and strategies from the taught components.

Along their journey to develop integrated care, we worked with AQuA to support sites to evaluate their progress and the impact of their learning using AQuA’s Integrated Care Framework Assessment Tool. We started with a baseline evaluation of how ready and capable communities were to lead integration, and revisited this throughout the programme. This enabled teams to prioritise activities to support integration and to demonstrate progress.

Our impact

An external evaluation of AQuA’s Integrated Care Discovery Community programme by OPM showed the innovative approach has delivered impressive results. It has succeeded in creating an integrated care network across the north-west of England where strategic leads can come together and continue to share learning and best practice.

The King’s Fund supported this, building leadership skills and improvement knowledge and providing the discovery communities with tailored support, coaching, and access to an alumni network which provides new opportunities to connect, learn and share ideas. This approach has helped to create a self-sustaining community of practice where the learning from the programme is being fed back into the wider system.

AQuA reported that, ‘The King’s Fund input has been highly valued by members and... has provided the programme with a degree of credibility from the outset’.