The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, Explained

What is an Integrated Care System and how does the VCSE sector get involved? Here we explore how the NHS works and how it is changing.

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What is happening in Health and Care?

The NHS in England has been divided up into 42 different areas called Integrated Care Systems (ICS’s). Each ICS has a voluntary sector alliance. Our alliance is called the North East and North Cumbria VCSE Partnership Programme. It enables the VCSE sector to shape and inform the ICS into a system which works for everyone. Check out this video from The Kings Fund explaining what is happening to Health and Care!

VONNE, in partnership with Cumbria CVS, leads and delivers on the integration of the VCSE sector within the ICS structures. 

Our North East and North Cumbria VCSE Partnership Programme keeps the VCSE sector involved and updated with ICS developments as they occur, through our Health and Wellbeing Network bulletin, Partnership Forum and our Sub-Groups.

What is an Integrated Care System, and why does it matter to you?

ICS’s bring together commissioners of NHS services, local authorities and place-based partners such as the VCSE sector. Together, these sectors are able to collectively plan and deliver health and care services to meet the needs of their communities. 

The Better Health and Wellbeing for All plan recognises the region's health challenges from lower life expectancy to some of the highest rates of child poverty in England and sets a series of demanding targets to improve lives. 

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, Chair of NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: "Our region has done a great deal to improve people's health, but the statistics still make for difficult reading. Sadly, people here still die younger and live with illnesses for longer than in other parts of the country - especially in our most deprived communities." 

The plan has been developed by the NHS, local councils and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations who have come together as an Integrated Care Partnership for the region. Watch this short animation about the plan.

Hear from Lisa Taylor, VONNE's Health and Wellbeing Programme Director, sharing why it's important for the voluntary sector to be part of the Integrated Care Strategy. 

North East and North Cumbria ICS regional context

It is important to understand the context of the North East and North Cumbria region to know why stark health inequalities, early death rates and highest sickness levels in England occur.

We have:

  • High levels of unemployment. 
  • Low levels of decent housing.
  • Highest rate of child poverty in the country.
  • Significant areas of deprivation.

Becoming an ICS allows us to address these issues by working together as one system with health and care partners, as well as local authorities. 

What are the structures within the ICS?

A graphic showing the split of the North East and North Cumbria Local Authority and ICP boundaries
The ICB and Local Authority Boundary map is available at:

What is an Integrated Care Board?
The Integrated Care Board (ICB) took over commissioning functions from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) on July 1st, 2022. ICB’s have overall responsibility for the delivery of NHS services.

What is an Integrated Care Partnership?
The Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) is responsible for creating our ICS strategy. The ICP consists of leads from all partners in the ICS. This includes local authorities, social care and the VCSE sector. 

What is an Area Integrated Care Partnership?
Our ICS is divided into 4 Area-ICPs: North Cumbria ICP, North ICP, Central ICP, Tees Valley ICP. This enables co-design and strategy to happen in an area larger than place but smaller than the whole ICS. 

Where does each area ICP cover?

North Cumbria

Newcastle upon Tyne 
North Tyneside 


South Tyneside

Tees Valley
Redcar and Cleveland 

How is the VCSE sector represented in the ICS?

Historic representation

Within some NHS workstreams and some geographic areas, there is a historic working relationship with some VCSE sector organisations, who have been working within these groups and boards prior to the changes to the NHS brought about by the creation of ICS’s. In these cases, the VCSE Partnership Programme will link with the organisations and groups or boards to offer support to try to ensure there is a two-way flow of information between the VCSE sector and ICS structures.

Integrated Care Board (ICB)

Our Integrated Care System is led by our Integrated Care Board (ICB), a statutory organisation with responsibility for NHS budgets, functions and performance. The VCSE sector has a participant place on the ICB, which means the democratically agreed representative is able to fully participate in meetings but are not able to cast a vote, should a voting situation occur. 

Integrated Care Partnership (ICP)

Our ICS is divided into 4 Area-ICPs: North Cumbria ICP, North ICP, Central ICP, Tees Valley ICP. This enables co-design and strategy to happen in an area larger than place but smaller than the whole ICS. 

The VCSE sector is also represented via the Integrated Care Partnership (ICP), which sets out key priorities and strategies to meet the health and care needs of our population. ICP meetings include local authorities, Healthwatch and 2 places for people from the VCSE sector (VCSE representatives). One of the representatives is the VCSE representative on the ICB, the other representative is decided democratically via our Executive Group. 

ICB People Committee

Richard Boggie, VONNE’s Health Partnerships Strategic Manager and the VCSE Partnership Programme lead for Workforce, attends the ICB People Committee on behalf of the VCSE sector. Richard, who is hosting our NENC VCSE Workforce Sub-Group, sits on this committee to communicate the collective voice of the Sub-Group.

Ageing Well Regional Steering Group

Our Ageing Well Sub-Group Representatives, Adam Brougham (RISE) and Sarah French (Vision and Hearing Support) attend the Ageing Well Regional Steering Group on behalf of the Ageing Well Sub-group. The steering group, which informs the work of the NHS Ageing Well workstream, provides the group with two-way communication between the NHS and the VCSE sector. 

North Mental Health and Learning Disability and Autism Partnership Board

This Partnership Board is newly established. There is two in existence, North and South. We have representatives on the North Board. This replaces the Learning Disability and Autism Executive Strategy Group (ESG) and the regional Mental Health Steering Group. Currently, Liz Wright (Skills for People), our representative for the Learning Disability and Autism Sub-Group and Everyturn's Mental Health Sub-Group representative sit on this partnership board to provide two-way communication and bring a collective sector voice on behalf of the two Sub-Groups. Both the North and South Partnership Boards will feed into the Mental Health and Learning Disability and Autism Executive Board (NHS).  

Healthier and Fairer Programme

The Healthier Lives and Fairer Outcomes programme (also known as ‘Healthier & Fairer’) is a system wide, multi-agency and ICS wide approach to coordinate efforts to prevent ill health and  tackle inequalities.

It aims to support the NHS to play a greater role in economic regeneration and address the social determinants of health. 

Richard Boggie, NENC VCSE Health Partnerships Strategic Manager, VONNE, is a member of a number of Healthier & Fairer groups as well as co-chairing the Healthy Communities and Social Prescribing work programme, which is one of the enabling groups within the broader Healthier & Fairer programme.