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South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board Strategy and a Barnsley Chop

July 25, 2022

As a resident of Sheffield I was keen to have a look at the newly launched “Start With People”  strategy, which was approved at the first public meeting South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB). It sets out how the ICB will work with people and communities . Here are some thoughts.

The strategy is  strong on principles – particularly with regard to the aspirations that the ICB has with regard to developing strong and trusted relationships with the public in South Yorkshire.

I was surprised but pleased to see a photograph of Dean in the strategy. Dean is the butcher I go to every Saturday down at the Moor Market. So when I popped down for some home cured bacon (which I strong recommend) and a couple of Barnsley Chops I showed Dean his photograph. Both Dean and his wife were surprised to see him in the strategy – they knew nothing about it and had not been approached for their permission. To be honest as I said to him, I was surprised too – I know that he has an excellent reputation for a finely cut piece of sirloin – but I was not aware that he had strong views on collaboration and co-design in the NHS.

There is a serious point here – if you say that your NHS strategy puts the relationship with the public at the heart of your work then you need to live by that. The photographs in this strategy are of real South Yorkshire people – yet it feels as though they have been used as stock images to bring a bit of local colour to give the report authenticity. That is not right.

Moving on….to inequalities

The strategy identifies a range of areas that the ICB will be focussing on here and references the NHSE Core20PLUS5 framework. However it is not possible to understand how the actions that are set out here relate to these. It is also hard to understand the relative ambition with regard to scale and impact here. These feel like a disparate collection of projects that have been hoovered up into this space.

What is lacking is an analysis that tells us what the problem is, its scale and the actions that the NHS will be taking to address it.

I think part of the reason for this deficit lies in the very simplistic “Theory of Change’ that the ICB is using – this is listed on page 38 of the report – and I show it below.

Most theories of change start by analysing the problem that needs solving – and then considering what the goal should be with regard to addressing this problem. Many – particularly when addressing complex whole systems problems also recognise that a key early step is to consider who needs to be involved, influenced or engaged in order to take effective action.

The (uncredited) theory of change in this strategy does none of these things. Sadly, I do think the NHS has history here – tending to default to project delivery planning tools when trying to achieve system change.

There are more appropriate theories of change – check out the United Nations one or closer to home – NESTA. Both have an upfront analysis of what the problem is – which for a new organisation with ambitions to be accountable and transparent would seem like an essential thing to do.

Finally! … a real problem

For me the most important paragraph in the whole document is tucked away at the end of the section on the Voluntary and Community Sector – page 9 – which states:

When I read this paragraph my thought were:

  • Is this really the case?
  • Why do communities distrust the NHS?
  • Which communities distrust the NHS?
  • What does this mean for the health of populations?
  • What does this mean for the way that NHS are provided?
  • What actions need to be taken to change this perception?
  • And most importantly has the lack of trust maybe got something to do with inequalities?

So, coming full circle – yes, it is really important to be upfront about principles – but communities will not trust us if they feel that we are just playing lip service to how we represent and involve them and present unconvincing strategies to address the real problems they and the health systems faces.












2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeremy Vanes permalink
    July 26, 2022 00:16

    Thank you for this utterly refreshing series of thoughts. I think the integrated care era has a massive chance of getting forward in areas that have evaded or been flummoxed by well known competitive or protectionist organisational behaviours in the NHS or the obstacles of economic events over the past 15 years.
    However, many of the new actors in the ICS era have been rolled over from the previous era, (I count myself and hundreds of others here), there has been a stark lack of any new learning or continuous professional development for any NHS managers for 3 years (all busy in surviving the pandemic waves) and finally the new legislation gives some lofty new permissions but very few evidence bases, “how to” toolkits, or templates. No wonder the early brochures are rushed, basic, hopeful, vague.
    Your UN and NESTA examples are great. The CORE+20 model is also a helpful starter, if properly unwrapped and explained, however in my region (the Black Country) 50% of the population are amongst the most deprived populations in the UK. I would add that going back to “never really deployed” alliance/geography programmes like Radical Efficiency, Total Place and New Frugal, using the new insights we\re getting from disaggregated data would be useful in year 1. But really we need to go WAY BEYOND where the conversations are. It is ok talking about trust, relationships and behaviours – but our work will be judged by progress we make.

    • July 26, 2022 13:47

      Lovely to hear from you Jeremy. I agree – there are real opportunities presented by the greater emphasis on integration and the move away from the purchaser/provider split. But – as you say – this requires a cultural and skill change within the NHS structures – this has to include real ambition to be more explicit about the challenges faced by health and care systems and a determination to articulate how systems need to change and confident actions to take this forward. I do feel that there are hopeful examples – I have been consistently impressed by the work of West Yorkshire and Harrogate ICS/B and I hope that there are other examples – all the best – Mark

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