The organisation of healthcare and the NHS within the UK is complicated, and has undergone many changes even within the last few decades. It also varies by country in the UK. Below are the main health geography areas of relevance from a statistical and data gathering perspective:
Following the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were created to lead planning and the commissioning of health care services in local areas.
Originally numbering over 200, after a series of mergers in 2021, there were then 106 CCGs in England. On average, each CCG would be responsible for the health of a quarter of a million people.
CCGs around the country have mostly been replaced by, or integrated into, Integrated Care Systems, with the change made in April 2022. However, much health data before 2022 is still in CCG format.
Integrated Care Systems
In 2022, the way that NHS systems work in England changed. The previous Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were replaced by new Integrated Care Systems (ICS).
There are a total of 42 ICSs covering the entire population of England.
Integrated Care Systems are partnerships that bring together health care providers and commissioners of NHS services with local authorities and other local partners. These partners then collectively plan health and care services to meet the local populations’ needs.
Scottish Health Boards
Health services in Scotland are devolved to the Scottish Government. NHS Scotland consists of 14 regional health boards, which cover the entire population of Scotland.
Similar to the current ICS, and previous CCG, systems, health boards in Scotland are responsible for planning and delivering health services for their area.
Welsh Health Boards
There are 7 local health boards and 3 NHS trusts which oversee NHS services in Wales.
The local health boards are responsible for planning and delivering NHS services in their area, whilst the NHS trusts look after public health, ambulance, blood and cancer services.
Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trusts
Northern Ireland currently operates five Health and Social Care Trusts, but is currently planning for a move towards Integrated Care Systems.
As such the future shape of Northern Ireland’s health geography is still undecided, but for now is the responsibility of the following five boards:
- Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
- Northern Health and Social Care Trust
- South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
- Southern Health and Social Care Trust
- Western Health and Social Care Trust