The power of partnerships

In the latest of a series of blogs about Personal Health Budgets, Rebecca Tempest tells the story behind a remarkable new video:  

Meeting Neil Francis, Geraldine Desmoulins and Michelle Buck on a crisp and sunny day on the south coast of England, I was quickly struck by the energy that was created as soon as these three shared a space.

We had come together to film some interviews, following the successful set up of a personalised package of support for a gentleman from the local travelling community.

Neil is a project manager at the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Geraldine is the Chief Officer at The Fed, a charity supporting independent living, and Michelle is from Friends, Families and Travellers, a charity supporting the travelling community.

Through successful partnership working, Neil, Michelle and Geraldine have supported Ade, who has a range of health needs, to receive a personal health budget.

Ade is a 57-yearold traveller. He is recovering from cancer and has early stage dementia, emphysema and arthritis.

His budget is managed by the Fed as a third party budget, and it gives him 12 hours a week of Personal Assistant (PA) support, provided by PAs who are also from the travelling community.

We are here to share Ade’s experience, a powerful example of the positive impact a personal health budget can have, and the choice and control it enables. But what sticks in my mind is not just the human story for people receiving personal health budgets, but the story of the professionals involved, whose tireless work is changing the way healthcare is delivered for people like Ade, who live in communities that can be extremely hard to reach through traditional health services.

Chatting with Neil between interviews, our conversation flicks between life on the south coast, to the wider drive towards personalisation in healthcare, and from our thoughts on the recently published planning guidance for the NHS to the relationship between the CCG and the voluntary and community sector.

It is this relationship that inspires me to sit down and write. What I felt, and not just heard, was a real sense of trust, openness and dedication, shared between these three professionals.

Making the film about how they work together is not a tick-box exercise and nor is it a beauty contest; none of them came to perform on camera and just talk the talk. Geraldine, Michelle and Neil share a level of trust that I have never seen in the seven years I’ve worked in healthcare. And the candid nature with which they joked affectionately about the challenges and difficult conversations they’ve had to get to where they are today only served to reinforce the fact that the energy I felt wasn’t a result of the coffee I’d had on the way there!

Not only was there trust, but a genuine belief in the power of personal health budgets and the role they have to play in the wider drive towards more personalisation and choice in healthcare. And why not? Stories like Ade’s show us first-hand how transformative a personal health budget can be.

Through the course of our discussions it is clear that Neil does have concerns about reaching the numbers of personal health budgets the Government’s Mandate to NHS England aims to see in place by 2020, without compromising the quality of the budgets being delivered. And the issue of resourcing the changes comes up too.

Personalisation represents a major shift in the way healthcare is delivered, and there are a multitude of organisational and back office changes required to get this up and running.

Personal health budgets are not about creating an extra pot of money for people to dip their hands into, but a meaningful way of using existing money differently. It is clear that only through successful partnership working that we can bring all the critical elements together, and only through an acknowledgement of the challenges can there be a sensible exploration of what and how change is possible.

Michelle, Neil and Geraldine remain optimistic, and the news about the Mandate commitment to personal health budgets seems to energise Michelle further, who quickly mentions to Neil a number of other people who could benefit from one.

We also have momentum: “It’s a good time to join the team,” Neil says as I explain I joined NHS England recently. Personal health budgets are “a brill thing” Michelle quips.

As I share hugs and fond farewells with three people I had never met before today, I come away feeling inspired and energised. I came to share one story, and came away with two.

Theirs is a story about professionals working together and trust that spans sectors, creating a collective energy which makes progress possible.

Rebecca Tempest

Rebecca Tempest joined NHS England in October 2015 as a Senior Communications Officer for the Personal Health Budgets and Integrated Personal Commissioning teams. Rebecca works alongside the Communications and Network Manager to provide a range of communications support to the national teams. Rebecca has a background in project management and communications in the NHS and charity sectors, and she has previously worked clinically in both primary and secondary care mental health services.

Neil Francis has over 30 years’ experience working in the public sector. His current role is as a project manager for NHS Brighton and Hove CCG, responsible for coordinating personalisation initiatives within the local Better Care programme. This includes the implementation of Personal Health Budgets.

Michelle Buck has been working for Friends Families and Travellers (FFT) since January 2010. Michelle is of Irish Traveller heritage through marriage. She is a founder member of GAIT (Gypsy and Irish Travellers association South East England) and previously worked as a volunteer caseworker and advocate. Her current role at FFT is as a health engagement worker – a position funded by Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group.

Geraldine Desmoulins had a successful career in the private sector before moving to Brighton and Hove in the 1970s. Geraldine has worked in the voluntary sector for over 30 years, and in her current role as Chief Officer she has taken The Fed Centre for Independent Living from a small organisation with 5 staff, to one with 66 paid staff, over 80 volunteers, delivering a range of projects and services enabling people to live as independently as possible.