Provider Collaboratives: Explaining Their Role in System Working

As a proud Corporate Supporter of The King’s Fund, HealthTrust Europe is pleased to have funded a project the organisation is working on to explain Provider Collaboratives.


Provider collaboratives are set to become a key part of the emerging arrangements in the NHS over the next few years.  The explainer considers the function of provider collaboratives in England, the opportunities they provide, and the unresolved questions to consider when thinking about their role in the changing health and care landscape.


From July 2022, all health and care organisations in England will be required to work together as integrated care systems (ICSs). Provider collaboratives, along with place-based partnership, will be ‘key components’ of ICSs.  By working effectively at scale, provider collaboratives are set to provide opportunities to tackle unwarranted variation, making improvements and delivering the best care outcomes for patients and communities.


All NHS trusts providing acute and mental health services will be expected to be part of at least one provider collaborative. These may take different forms and will vary in their scale and scope: some will be ‘vertical’ collaboratives involving primary, community, local acute, mental health and social care providers coming together to join up their services; others will be ‘horizontal’ collaboratives involving providers working together across a wide geography with other similar organisations to transform services and/or improve quality and efficiency. Regardless of the structure they wish to partake in, all NHS providers will need to join a provider collaborative, and individual providers may be involved in more than one.


Whilst it is evident that provider collaboratives are set to become a core component of emerging plans in the NHS’ future, the introduction of these new structures has left some yet-to-be-resolved questions. These include:


  • How provider collaboratives will define what they will achieve
  • How they will balance permissiveness and the pace at which they need to be established
  • How the provider collaborative will work across:
    • Multiple ICSs and footprints
    • Capacity and capability
    • Culture, with the shift from competition to collaboration.


Against the backdrop of significant structural changes within the health care system, provider collaboratives offer potentially pivotal opportunities, should they be utilised to the full effect. As the implementation date for ICSs nears, it is crucial that these questions are answered to ensure that the delivery and impact of the provider collaboratives is both efficient and effective.


To read the full report on The King’s Fund’s website, please follow the link. The report was written and developed by The King’s Fund and is editorially independent.