What next for Integrated Care? A reflection on ICIC24

What next for Integrated Care? A reflection on ICIC24

Having had now a week or so to reflect on an intense and creative 3 days in Belfast, I find myself asking “what next?”

The theme of the conference was “taking the leap – making integrated care a reality for people and communities”. We set out with this theme, together with our partners in Northern Ireland, knowing that much progress has been made towards integrated care but few people and communities who need care would be able to point to integration as their lived experience.

One piece of feedback I heard during the conference was that the conversations were more challenging and provocative than they might have been at past ICICs. This, to me, is a very good thing. While the conference is an opportunity for like-minded advocates of integrated care to come together, share knowledge and evolving evidence, it is also an important opportunity to widen the conversation to others who have not historically been part of our network. The trend over the last few conferences is for us to see more first-time delegates new to the work of the Foundation and integrated care, and that is very exciting indeed.

I posed three questions in my opening address to the delegates to reflect on over the three days:

  1. Are people, carers and communities actively and meaningfully involved in our implementation of integrated care and are you really listening?
  2. How will we know when we have succeeded in making health and care truly integrated if we are not actively and meaningfully involving communities?
  3. What can I do within my own sphere of influence to make integrated care real?

I saw many reasons across the three days to be optimistic that people, carers and communities are actively and meaningfully involved in integrating care. More presentations of work seemed to go well beyond tokenistic ‘engagement’ of people, carers and the wider community. There were also very interesting and challenging discussions about how we measure this to demonstrate the impact of person and community-centred care integration. Systems are still struggling with this, but they are not giving up!

In the first plenary, Rafael Bengoa, who led that team that wrote the report “Systems, Not Structures: Changing Health and Social Care” in 2016 that started Northern Ireland’s integrated care journey, challenged us all to think hard about our communication about what we are doing and why and as importantly for whom.

There is much to celebrate and much to do!

Dr. Niamh Lennox-Chhugani
Chief Executive
International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC)