More information about integrated care boards (ICSs).

What are ICBs?

Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) became statutory in July 2022.  ICBs are the strategic decision-making bodies of place-based Integrated Care Systems (ICS) or Partnerships which bring together all organisations involved in providing care services to a local community. 

As part of the drive to improve local health outcomes, it is essential that health and care staff across an ICS use evidence and knowledge.  This calls for equitable access to knowledge services as well as digital knowledge resources. 

Some NHS knowledge and library services (KLS) are already providing services to their local integrated care system or integrated care board. 

There are opportunities for NHS KLS to work collaboratively to promote access to knowledge resources across the local health system.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What are the key business-drivers for system-wide working for NHS KLS?

There are several key drivers for collaborative working to provide KLS across a health system including the Health and Care Act, the Education Contract.  We have summarised some of the key levers for change here:

The NHS England Guidance on maximising the benefits of research for Integrated Care Boards explicitly refers to the importance of NHS KLS in facilitating access to research evidence.

What are the key steps that an Integrated Care Board can take to promote evidence-based decision-making?

There are 9 key steps for ICBs to get evidence into decision-making at the system-wide level.

How should an NHS Knowledge and Library Service respond to requests for access to NHS Knowledge and Library Services from an ICB?

This is a decision that needs to be taken at a local level by the NHS Knowledge and Library Service Manager in agreement with their host organisation.  There are three main routes that could be followed:

  1. Where a prior agreement has existed, with say a Clinical Commissioning Group, it is reasonable to expect this agreement to continue for members of the Integrated Care Board.
  2. Some services may decide to offer services to a small number of staff at the Integrated Care Board upon request without entering into any formal agreement or paid contract.  In these cases, it is recommended that activity levels are closely monitored so that if a threshold is reached, there is evidence to then make a case to establish a more formal funded arrangement for access to NHS knowledge and library services.
  3. Establish a more formal agreement or paid contract to provide services to an Integrated Care Board.  The service offer can be developed and costed in partnership with other NHS KLS locally to make best use of skills and resources available.  It will be important to identify a senior responsible officer either within your home organisation(s) or from the Integrated Care Board.
How can staff at Integrated Care Boards and constituent organisations access digital knowledge resources?

All members of the Integrated Care Board are eligible to access national core content via NHS OpenAthens.

The national NHS England Knowledge and Library Team are currently developing a series of pilots working with a small number of knowledge and library services to explore widening access both to knowledge and library services and to locally provided existing digital resources. The learning from these pilots will inform system-wide working for other NHS KLS.

What about staff based in Primary Care and the community?

Funding from NHS England is in place for two years to establish a knowledge specialist role within 15 Primary Care Training Hubs. These roles provide evidence and knowledge at a neighbourhood level to those working within primary care. The ambition is to have a knowledge specialist in each of the 42 Primary Care Training Hubs in England.

These posts are primarily designed to support the work of the Primary Care Training Hub and to provide an equitable level of knowledge services to staff and learners based within primary care.

How can the national Knowledge and Library Services Team help?

NHS England Knowledge and Library Team are currently working with 3 NHS KLS to test out some of the principles of system-wide collaborative working. We will share the learning from these vanguards as we go.

The National Knowledge and Library Team can work with you and your colleagues to help plan your response or approach to your local Integrated Care Board.  We can facilitate a workshop to explore the various options open to services and help you to identify key stakeholders and champions to work with.

Members from the national team are constantly working to promote the role and value of NHS knowledge and library services with senior NHS leaders, highlighting the work you do and the value it brings to the health service.

What do health leaders think?

Two health leaders share their views on ICS level working for NHS knowledge and library services:

Rob Webster, Chief Executive, NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board

Rob speaks about the importance of evidence-based decision-making for ICBs and ICS and the key role that NHS knowledge and library services play.

Shona Haining, Head of Research and Evidence, North of England Commissioning Support Unit

Shona speaks about a community of practice in the North East and North Cumbria which brings together those working in knowledge and evidence roles with decision-makers to get evidence into practice.


Join the Integrated Care System Working Community of Practice to keep up to date with colleagues who are testing out system-wide working.