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Understanding integration: how to listen to and learn from people and communities 


NHS England and NHS Improvement provided funding and support during the creation of the guide.

The move towards integrated care has been the defining policy in health and care over the past decade and will continue to gather pace with the development of integrated care systems (ICSs).

The aim of integrated care is to improve people’s outcomes and experiences of care by bringing services together around people and communities. This means addressing the fragmentation of services and lack of co-ordination that people often experience by providing person-centred, joined-up care.

One key question for ICSs and the partners working in them is how they will know whether they are meeting the needs of the people they serve. Those best placed to understand what they need, what is working and what could be improved are the people and communities using services. Their lived experience is a powerful tool to improve existing services and identify new and better ways to meet people’s needs.

Currently, people’s experiences of health and care services are usually collected and understood at the level of individual providers (Wellings 2019). This means we know about people’s experiences of individual services, such as general practice, hospitals or social care, but not about whether these services are working well together to meet people’s needs.

Over the past year, Picker and The King’s Fund have been working with NHS England and NHS Improvement on how ICSs can listen to and learn from people and communities. We have produced a practical guide for partners working in these systems, with ideas on how they might go about this. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It will require a range of different methods and approaches to understand, monitor and measure how well people’s needs are being met. Perhaps most importantly, it will require partners to listen and learn together. As important as the methods adopted, will be the importance placed on this area of work and we have put together a set of principles for systems to adopt to ensure that the voices of people and communities are at the heart of partnership working.

The guide, created by The King’s Fund and Picker on behalf of NHS England and NHS Improvement, has been developed with input from ICSs, patient leaders, and engagement and experience experts. We hope it will prove useful to systems and will encourage and help them as they work to co-ordinate services around what matters to people and communities.

If you have any questions or would like further information about the guide or about understanding, monitoring, and measuring people’s experiences of integrated care, please get in touch.