Voluntary sector partnerships

Partnership working between the voluntary sector, local government and the NHS is crucial to improving care for people and communities.

The NHS Long Term Plan and NHS Five Year Forward View highlight the need for closer working across these sectors to address the wider determinants of health, which in turn could impact on the demand on primary and acute services.

Integrated care systems across the country are already seeing the impact this can have on the lives of patients. Watch Robert’s story.

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise involvement and leadership has been key to developing rich partnerships within local health and care systems.

It is through the support of the VCSE sector that ICSs have been able to make considerable progress towards addressing health inequalities and improving public health.

In 2018, more than 160,000 registered voluntary and community organisations with a total income of £53 billion provided a variety of services accessed by 9 in 10 UK households. In addition to these, 100,000 social enterprises with a total income of £60 billion operated in the UK. VCSE organisations employ approximately 910,000 people and contributed £18 billion to the UK economy in 2017/18.

These figures do not include the large amount of unregistered community groups and mutual aid groups who contribute to improving society on a daily basis and who have been especially active in the response to COVID.

COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for even greater integration of VCSE services and time and resources are progressively being directed towards facilitating access to employment and education, reducing loneliness and social isolation, intervening on the drivers of fuel poverty and delivering preventative interventions for crime reduction.

VCSE organisations are often embedded in neighbourhoods and have a unique advantage when it comes to engaging the most at risk and rarely heard communities. They play a key role in facilitating dialogue between the system and its residents, making sure that services are co-produced with purpose, with residents at the heart of service provision.

For the VCSE to achieve its full potential in the delivery of integrated care, it needs to be recognised fully as a part of the system.

A list of case studies and resources to inspire and inform practice – for health and care professionals working within integrated care systems – can be found on the Future NHS Collaboration platform (you can request a login to access these resources from the website).

Also, NCVO – creating partnerships for success and How health and care systems can work better with the VCSE sector provide helpful guidance on how ICSs can work with the VCSE to strengthen partnerships and joint working.

Good practice VCSE case studies

The COVID-19 response has highlighted examples across the country where the VCSE has mobilised its workforce to deliver support direct to where it was needed. A prime example of this is the ‘North Tyneside Good Neighbours Scheme’, where North Tyneside Council, local charities and the CCG worked together to provide flexible support to those shielding during lockdown.

The Gloucestershire Help Hub is another great example of the VCSE and local health and care services working together to support local residents during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has shown the many ways that health and care systems and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector can work effectively together. There is an opportunity now to take the learning from this challenging time and use it to inform and continue the excellent work and positive impact into the pandemic recovery.

For instance, the Dorset Population Health Management Programme has successfully integrated the VCSE into the Dorset ICS, allowing close collaboration between Primary Care Networks, multi-disciplinary teams and the voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. This has helped to identify and tackle health and wellbeing issues for specific groups of patients and to co-produce solutions. Learning from this programme would allow ICSs to successfully embed local VCSE organisations and improve preventative and holistic care for people using health and care services.

The Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership is working with a number of local VCSE organisations as part of a Voluntary Sector Health and Social Care Assembly, with the aim of improving health and care. The assembly will help address the challenge of engaging with grassroots organisations and will represent the needs of the communities and the voluntary sector that it serves. Similar work is taking place in Lincolnshire, where the local NHS trust has made a formal link with the VCSE sector through a voluntary sector engagement team. This has allowed local VCSE organisations to be involved in governance, social prescribing, hospital discharge and the COVID response.

St Basils ‘Rewriting Futures Programme’ exemplifies the social value that funding can provide, as it was funded by a Social Impact Bond and supported more than 350 young people who were at risk of homelessness or social exclusion.

See more examples of good integrated care practice by the VCSE sector.