Partnership working between voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) sector organisations and ICSs to improve health and care outcomes

A case study about how developing strong local partnerships across VCFSE sector organisations built capacity and supported the development of a culture of innovation and ensure innovation activities are driven by local patient needs.

Themes: Partnership Working

Case study summary

The ICS Design Framework highlights the importance of strong place-based partnerships with voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) sector organisations, and outlines the arrangements necessary to ensure VCFSE partnerships are embedded as an essential part of how ICSs operate at all levels.  

What was the problem or opportunity?

The West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) identified an opportunity to support the development of partnerships between local health and care providers and VCFSE organisations to foster a culture of innovation across the system. The VCFSE Partnership for Better Health focuses on exploring and supporting capacity building within the VCFSE community and facilitating partnership working between ICSs and VCFSE sector organisations.

The West of England VCFSE Partnership for Better Health Programme involved engagement with VCFSE organisations from across the three ICSs in the region which include: Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG); Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW); and Gloucestershire.

How did this support innovation adoption and spread?

The West of England AHSN identified that work between ICSs and VCFSE sector organisations in the region was positioned to support larger VCFSE sector organisations and had limited scope. In response, the VCFSE Partnership for Better Health Programme was designed to:

  • facilitate a better understanding of the VCFSE landscape in the West of England
  • identify unmet needs and local health and social care priorities
  • enable smaller VCFSE organisations to develop new relationships with health and care providers/ICSs in the region, to facilitate the delivery of integrated health and care services.

The programme was structured using the Double Diamond Design methodology, which focussed on four main phases:

  • The scoping phase involved a number of stakeholder engagement events with commissioners and voluntary sector leads, to facilitate shared learning around successful approaches to innovation and collaborative working.
  • The discovery phase then focused on building a better understanding of the individual needs and priorities of each local system.
  • Based on the findings of these events the content and key deliverables of the programme were defined and co-developed in partnership with both the ICSs and relevant VCFSE sector organisations.
  • The final phase focused on delivering a series of introductory training resources, using a test and learn methodology, to ensure resources could be refined and developed in response to the needs of each ICS in the region.

The training resources developed include:

  • A set of three ‘bitesize’ online learning sessions introducing VCFSEs to: 1) The NHS as a marketplace, 2) Data Security, and 3) Risk Management.
  • A suite of case studies highlighting examples of innovative cross-sector working in the West of England.
  • A bundle of information and ongoing training resources.

Through this discovery work and with input from the West of England AHSN multidisciplinary project steering group, a number of key sector leads were identified to help shape the programme. Including their expertise at an early stage ensured the establishment of close working relationship and optimal programme design. In particular, the West of England AHSN were able to develop close working relationships with sector leads from Gloucestershire Voluntary Community Sector Alliance (GVCSA), and the One Gloucestershire ICS. This was invaluable to ensure effective engagement and to draw feedback from their previous experiences to help shape the programme. The learnings and feedback from these conversations were carefully considered to ensure that the information included in the training resources was not locality specific and would have appeal across the whole of the West of England.

“As part of its VCFSE Partnership for Better Health programme, we worked closely with the West of England Academic Health Science Network to deliver insight about the voluntary sector – and share learning that could support the future creation of valuable innovative partnership opportunities between ICSs and VCFSE sector organisations.”

– Matt Lennard, Chief Officer, Gloucestershire VCS Alliance

What were the learning points?

Overall, the programme highlighted the:

  • importance of engaging with relevant stakeholders early in the design process, to address their priorities, ensure the design of optimal solutions and avoid complicating established activities or relationships
  • need for a flexible and reactive approach to project delivery that is responsive to system needs
  • vital role that VCFSE sector leads play in facilitating relationships with VCFSE organisations
  • importance of ensuring diverse representation of VCFSE organisations, including local infrastructure bodies and organisations delivering health and care services (taking into consideration both the size of the organisation and the experience they can offer); and
  • lack of knowledge some VCFSE partners had on the move towards integrated system working.

Next steps and sustainability

As this programme draws to a close, the West of England AHSN will continue to explore and support partnerships between VCFSE sector organisations and ICSs in the West of England, to ensure health and care services are designed to benefit the local communities they serve.

They are also planning to integrate the feedback from this programme into the curriculum of their West of England Academy, which is open to all health and social care professionals in the West of England, and provides a range of free resources to support knowledge and skills development around innovative thinking and working.

They are also planning to build a portfolio of modules, for a diverse audience of health and social care professionals, to support and encourage multi sector partnerships. The first of these will focus on co-production, which was identified by both the NHS and VCFSE sectors as an area of particular focus.

Find out more

Contact details

Urszula Kapoulas, Programme Manager- Innovation & Growth, West of England AHSN