People involved in healthcare in Bracknell will be feeling relieved after a proposal to reverse “a lot of hard work” has been stopped.

Patients in Bracknell Forest are beneficiaries of the Frimley Integrated Care System (ICS) which is based around Frimley Park Hospital.

The ICS is a partnership of NHS, health services, councils, the voluntary sector and residents working together to provide better health outcomes which reflect the needs of the area better.

This ICS, along with others throughout the country, underwent a Government review this year.

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There were plans to change the borders of Frimley ICS so that it would only cover Surrey County Council, making it ‘coterminous’ with Surrey and butting out patients in Bracknell.

However, following a Government review, the ICS will stay as it is. The news that the status quo would be retained was announced by Edward Agar, the minister of state for health.

Mr Agar said: “Earlier this year, Ministers asked NHS England to set out options for boundary alignment in integrated care systems in specific geographies where upper-tier local authorities currently have to work across more than one ICS footprint and to assess the impact of changes to deliver alignment in each case. Over the last six months NHS England has worked with stakeholders to develop advice and analysis for each of the affected areas to inform the final decision.

“This work has been underpinned by the principle that coterminous boundaries deliver clear benefits in integration between local authorities and NHS organisations. As approaches to integrated care develop it is crucial that we have a system that helps support closer working both across NHS organisations and between the NHS and local government.

“There has therefore been a strong presumption of moving towards coterminosity, save for  in exceptional circumstances where there were strong reasons for not doing so.

“The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s decision process has involved careful consideration of a wide range of issues, perspectives and interests and a careful weighing up of risks and benefits, outlined in the analysis provided by NHS England for each area as well as having regard to his legal duties.

“These have been considered on an case-by-case basis for each area and where NHS England has made a recommendation based on broad (not universal) local consensus, including a recommendation to retain the status quo, the Secretary of State has listened and has accepted these recommendations.

“This work has now concluded, with advice provided to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”

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Frimley ICS was one of the exceptions, along with the East of England ICS.

The prospect of losing Frimley ICS was strongly opposed by Bracknell councillors.

Asked how he felt about the news, Councillor Dale Birch, the executive member for adult services, health and housing (Conservative, Little Sandhurst and Wellington) said: “It’s excellent. It’s the right decision, and so everybody that presented their evidence suggested ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ and I certainly support that decision.

“We have one of the finest ICS in the country, built on brilliant relationships, with an understanding of how the system works and I hope that the new health and care legislation be to the benefit of our residents.

Bracknell News: Councillor Dale Birch (Conservative, Little Sandhurst and Wellington). Credit: Bracknell Forest CouncilCouncillor Dale Birch (Conservative, Little Sandhurst and Wellington). Credit: Bracknell Forest Council

“It’s a very strong message to all partners in the ICS that the Government recognise the excellent work that is being done, and how well all the partners in the ICS, including voluntary sector, how they’re working hard and they’re working together, and we’re looking forward to continuing that relationship.”

At a full council meeting on Wednesday, July 14, Councillor Mary Temperton (Great Hollands North) introduced a motion to oppose any move by the Government to abolish the Frimley ICS, which was passed unanimously.

Celebrating the news that the ICS will be retained, Cllr Temperton said: “Well I put the resolution to oppose any changes to the Full Council so I’m delighted. A lot of work has went into the ICS over the years to make the partnerships and make it work.

“An enormous amount of work has been done and to have to start all that again would have been a disaster. The systems and the data would all be different, and all that work would have been a waste of time, so I’m delighted.

Bracknell News: Labour councillor Mary TempertonLabour councillor Mary Temperton

“I’m sure a lot of work had gone on before with the partnerships since Surrey asked it to be changed. That came as a bit of a bombshell. It was important to get that resolution through to make it clear that the whole council opposed this as well.

“Before that resolution I don’t think anyone knew about it, it was not public knowledge. As soon as you have a motion it then becomes public knowledge.”

According to the NHS, ICS’s were rolled out in April 2021, however, it is not a legal requirement for an area to have an ICS yet. The NHS has asked the Government and Parliament to establish ICSs in law and to remove legal barriers to integrated care for patients and communities. Making ICSs a legal requirement forms part of the Health and Care Bill 2021-22, which was introduced in Parliament in July.

Decisions on legislation will now be for Government and Parliament to make.

Health Minister Mr Agar (CON, Charnwood) announced that Frimley ICS would be staying as it is on Thursday, July 22.