Journal Article

Exploring lessons from Covid-19 for the role of the voluntary sector in integrated care systems


Integrated Care Systems (ICS) in England are partnerships between different health and social care organisations, to co-ordinate care and therefore provide more effective health and social care provision. The objective of this article is to explore the role of the ‘Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise’ (VCSE) sector in integrated care systems. In particular, the paper aims to examine recent experiences of the voluntary sector in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lessons that can be learnt for integrated care provision. The article focuses on the case of Oxfordshire (UK), using a mixed methods approach that included a series of semi-structured interviews with key informants in health and the VCSE as well as online surveys of GPs and organisations in the VCSE. These were complemented by two contrasting geographical case studies of community responses to Covid-19 (one urban, one rural). Data were collected between April and June 2021. Interviewees were recruited through professional and community networks and snowball sampling, with a total of 30 semi-structured interviews being completed. Survey participants were recruited through sector-specific networks and the research arm of, with a total of 57 survey respondents in all. The research demonstrated the critical role of social prescribing link workers and community development workers in forging connections between the health sector and the VCSE at the hyper-local level, particularly in the urban case study. In the rural case study, the potential role of the Parish Council in bringing the two sectors together was highlighted, to support community health and wellbeing through stronger integrated working between the two sectors. The article concludes that enhanced connections between health and the VCSE will strengthen the outcomes of Integrated Care Systems.

Attached files


Carpenter, Juliet
Spencer, Ben
Moreira De Souza, Tatiana
Cho, Youngha
Brett, Joanne

Oxford Brookes departments

School of the Built Environment
Department of Nursing


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-09-20

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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