Learning sites will build partnerships between local health and social care commissioners and charity, community and social enterprise sector

Communities across England will receive funding to help them build partnerships between Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) charities, community groups and social enterprises, thanks to a major investment by the NHS Commissioning Board.

Twelve areas will receive up to £50,000 each to support the Building Health Partnerships Programme – development and national sharing of best practice in partnerships and relationships between health commissioners and the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

CCGs, the new groups of local clinicians who will control the majority of their communities’ health and social care commissioning budgets, will work together with local authorities and VCSE groups to develop new ways of working together within the new health and social care system. Their work will support VCSE groups to be fully involved in identifying gaps in healthcare services, and the ways in which they can contribute to filling them, and the ideas and programmes they develop will be shared across England.

It will be delivered in partnership with the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), Social Enterprise UK, the Institute for Voluntary Action Research and the NHS Commissioning Board. The learning and benefits of the work will be spread to all CCGs and voluntary organisations across England who will be able to adapt and build on the best practice they develop.

Tim Kelsey, the NHS Commissioning Board’s National Director for Patients and Information, will announce the 12 sites at today’s (Wednesday) Annual Conference of National Voices, the national coalition of health and social care charities in England.

He will say: “The NHS can’t operate in isolation. The NHS Commissioning Board wants to foster a culture of openness and partnership with people who use the service and the organisations that support them. This includes partnerships with the voluntary sector, which are critical to improving outcomes for people.

“We want to work with you to design the ways we can have great insight. Your organisations have experience, insight, data and knowledge that is an important part of how commissioners can improve their understanding of what services are needed and how to support people to use those services

“Local communities and voluntary sector partnerships need to be at the heart of how the new system operates. Increasing participation and supporting active citizens is essential, not just an added extra.”

The NHS Commissioning Board received more than 100 responses to its call for expressions of interest in the programme, from clinical commissioning groups across England.

The 12 areas were selected to build on existing good examples of engagement work and to reflect a diversity that will allow the learning to be of benefit across England. They are: Bristol; Croydon; City & Hackney; Dudley; Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield; North Hampshire; Bradford & Airedale; Manchester; Shropshire; Staffordshire; Swindon; and Wakefield.

Ceri Jones, Head of Policy and Research at Social Enterprise UK, said: “This programme aims to bridge the gap of understanding between the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector and the new CCGs.  Groups of local clinicians are going to be responsible for commissioning for the first time and it’s important they understand what our sector can bring to communities.

“Social enterprises and the voluntary sector have been delivering quality health and social care services for years, including to the hard-to-reach, and we need to ensure they continue to be commissioned to meet the needs of people across England.”

The programme will support voluntary organisations and commissioners to jointly develop meaningful engagement to develop practical solutions to commissioning local services. It will make a real difference to communities by improving local health outcomes. As well as the bursary, the 12 areas will receive training support in the form of specifically tailored partnership development days and masterclasses.

The work is likely to be different in each area selected to reflect local priorities. The 12 areas will be encouraged to share ideas, learning and outcomes through a National network.  This will spread innovation and support wider dissemination and application of successful approaches and lessons learned. The successes of the programme will also be of relevance to health and wellbeing boards and the emerging local Healthwatch organisations.

It builds on work carried out by four pilot areas earlier this year, which resulted in new, productive engagement and relationship-building programmes in Central Bedforshire, Cheshire, Cornwall and St Helens.

Neil Cleeveley, Director of Policy and Communications at NAVCA said: “Involving charities, community groups and social enterprises in the design and delivery of health and social care services improves local services and offers value for money. This programme will help commissioners and voluntary organisations work together to bring real and lasting benefits to local communities. Indeed, the lessons we learn have the potential to make a difference beyond health and care services to influence the commissioning of all public services.”

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  1. Malcolm Swinburn says:

    This or should be great news for the voluntary and community sector but I do hope that this funding goes to local providers of services and not hived off to national organisations. On the ground, coal face activity by local organisations a nd groups is what is needed.

  2. Jeanne Hambleton says:

    This is encouraging and it could help to raise the profile of fibromyalgia – said to be the cinderella of the medical world. There are several organisations struggling to put this rotten invisible disability, with 100 symptoms, on the research map as it has no Govt. funding to find a cure for patients and their unborn children. I am sure we will all welcome this initiative.
    Could we have Tim Kelsey please to speak for our 4th national Fibromyalgia Conference April 26/29 2013 to talk to our delegates with fibromyalgia, group leaders, members, individuals and our doctors. They are all interested in education about this condition which is why they come to conference. This would give our delegates hope and a feeling that someone does really care about them. Thank you for your time.

    • Simon@NHS CB says:

      Hi Jeanne
      Thank you for your comment. Please could you email your request, along with your contact details and any additional detail to

      Kind regards

      Digital Communications Officer
      NHS Commissioning Board

  3. Angie Pullen says:

    Epilepsy Action is currently developing learning resources for people with epilepsy, carers and health and social care staff who are not experts in the condition if this is an area any of the sites are interested in please get in touch.

  4. Karen Kennedy says:

    Fantastic opportunity for the voluntary sector to be included and share their knowledge and support to NHS initiatives………….. Manchester Care & Repair

  5. Nick Pahl says:

    Sounds like a great initiative – I hope that members of the British Acupuncture Council can locally get involved. We have 3000 members across the country who would be interested to get involved.

    It would be useful to have contact details of those who are managing the local pilots.