E-scooters at a crossroads
E-scooters at a crossroads

Engaging with Integrated Care Systems priorities

Words by:
September 20, 2023

At the end of June 2023, 40 of England’s 42 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) published their Integrated Care Board (ICB) led, five-year joint forward plans.  

The long-awaited plans set out each ICBs strategic vision to tackle the health challenges their population faces. They have been developed by examining local need, taking into account an array of local health stakeholders priorities. 

To ensure the plans are impactful NHS England issued three core principles that they must all follow:  

  1. The plan being fully aligned with the wider system partnership’s ambitions. 
  2. The plan building on existing local strategies and reflect universal NHS commitments, for example, reducing health inequalities. 
  3. The plan being delivery focused, including specific objectives, trajectories and milestones as appropriate.  

With only loose guidance, and in line with the ambitions of integrated care, ICBs delivered plans in a range of formats, with a range of different priorities and approaches to improve healthcare locally. 

Now that their priorities are set, industry, patient advocacy groups and other key stakeholders need to now be engaging with these evolving bodies. However, this is challenging given the great divergence in their approaches, making it harder to have an in depth understanding of local priorities and initiatives they can support ICBs to achieve.  

To help improve this understanding and support strong collaboration between the private, third sector and ICBs, WA Communications has undertaken an in-depth analysis of all 40 ICB five-year joint forward plans. 


Our data, displayed in a brand-new interactive map, has been created following a deep-dive analysis of all 40 ICB plans, and any standalone documents published to alongside the plan.  

To do so, we prepared a four-point scale (0 to 3). On the scale: 

  • Three indicates that a plan has a significant amount of detail on a specific area – this could be a clear dedicated section, consistent presence throughout the plan, or a separate publication.  
  • Two indicates a paragraph focused on the specific area. 
  • One indicates that the area is mentioned but without any detail. 
  • Zero indicates no mention at all.  

In total WA Communications have analysed 27 areas of focus in ICBs five-year joint forward plans, including specific conditions, performance objectives and cross-cutting health themes. Full data can be viewed via our new interactive platform.  

Data map 

Our five key takeaways 

  • Highly prevalent conditions which are focal points of the NHS long term plan and the yet to be published Major Conditions Strategy, are unsurprisingly a huge focus for ICBs, with 90% of plans dedicating a whole section to cancer, and 65% on cardiovascular disease. In cancer, plans predominantly focused on early diagnosis and case-finding, whereas action on CVD centred on prevention. 
  • However, prioritisation of other common health challenges differs, with nearly half of plans not mentioning ophthalmology at all and two thirds of plans either not mentioning or placing a low priority on obesity. 
  • Rare diseases only feature in five plans, demonstrating the likelihood that the roadmap for integrating specialised services will not be carried out in full, and by every ICS in 2024. Instead, it is likely designated ICSs will lead the delivery of specialised services. 
  • Health inequalities feature heavily in all but one plan, aligned to the ambitions of the NHS mandate and Core20PLUS5 with a clear focus on access, experience and outcomes. 
  • Notable cross-cutting priorities featured in plans include personalised care and improvements in data and digital, key areas which ICSs will be looking to partner with industry on. 

About WA Communications 

WA Communications is an integrated strategic communications and public affairs consultancy. Our specialist health practice supports clients across a diverse range of diseases at the intersection of policy, government affairs and communications, to achieve their strategic objectives. 

If you would like to discuss how to best work in partnership with Integrated Care Systems, and our analysis of their key areas of focus, contact Lloyd Tingley at


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