Voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSE)

Since its inception, NHS England has been committed to the principle of co-designing national health strategies with voluntary sector and patient groups, citizens and community partners.

The voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector is an important partner for statutory health and social care agencies and plays a key role in improving health, well-being and care outcomes. Legislation and strategy documents such as the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Care Act 2013, Five Year Forward View 2014 and the Next Steps of the Five Year Forward  and most recently the NHS Long Term Plan have recognised this and promoted the role of VCSE organisations in improving outcomes.

These organisations improve health outcomes and tackle health inequalities not only by delivering services but also by shaping their design and advocating for, representing and amplifying the voice of service users, patients and carers. Their input is essential to a vibrant local health economy. To support this NHS England has developed in partnership the following tools and resources:

Principles for VCSE engagement

The voluntary community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector has always provided a range of different support to the NHS including in its role in helping community voices to be heard, in delivering services and in being partners in strategy development.

As we move towards the ambitions of the new NHS Long Term Plan, this is more essential than ever, in supporting NHS England to meet its obligations through the Equality Act, address health inequalities and ensuring that our programmes meet the needs of our diverse people and communities.

These principles for VCSE engagement outline NHS England’s ambition to work towards a more inclusive approach to partnership working with the VCSE sector. To embed these principles we are developing a series of activities.

VCSE Health and Wellbeing Programme

The programme was launched in April 2017 and is the place where the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency work together with VCSE organisations to drive transformation of health and care systems; promote equality; address health inequalities and help people, families and communities to achieve and maintain wellbeing.

The objectives of the programme are to:

  • Encourage co-production in the creation of person-centred, community-based health and care which promotes equality for all;
  • Enable the voice of people with lived experience and those experiencing health inequalities to inform national policy making and shape the delivery of services;
  • Build evidence of sustainable, scalable solutions to mitigate and prevent inequalities impacting on the health and wellbeing of communities.

The programme seeks to achieve its objectives through two co-dependent funded mechanisms:

Voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) health and wellbeing Fund

The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Fund was launched on 4 August 2021 with a focus on providing support to families and children’s services due to a predicted increase in paediatric respiratory viral infections during autumn and winter 2021.

Funding is available for both local and national VCSE organisations who are already delivering existing services that can be expanded to provide additional support for children, families and children’s respiratory and acute services during autumn/winter 2021 and raise awareness of management of respiratory infections within communities that experience the greatest health inequalities.

Grants are available between £75,000 – £300,000 with the closing deadline of noon on 27 August. Further information can be found in the information pack. The total amount of funding available is £1.8 million.

Applicants will need to demonstrate:

  • Sufficient reach to target groups (those with respiratory illness, children, parents, carers, in-hospital services) to justify the extension/expansion
  • Gaps in current provision and how their project addresses these gaps
  • How their project supports the health system
  • How they work with communities that face health inequalities.

The Health and Wellbeing Fund is a joint fund by Department of Health and Social Care, the UK Health Security Agency and NHS England.

VCSE advisory group

The UK Health Security Agency, the Department of Health & Social Care and NHS England along with organisations from across the voluntary community and social enterprise sector, established an advisory group to review and make recommendations on how the statutory and VCSE sector could work better together to maximise their partnerships.

The advisory group was responsible for the VCSE Review in 2016 and committed to delivering a refined Action Plan in 2018.

Maximising the contribution of the VCSE sector

NHS England is working to develop and maximise the contribution that the voluntary sector and volunteering can have on:

  • reducing pressure on the NHS during COVID-19 and the recovery period
  • supporting communities during the pandemic
  • meeting the commitments within the NHS Long Term Plan.

The organisation’s Voluntary Partnerships Team supports the VCSE sector to play a role within NHS policy and service design through a range of advice, training and opportunities to connect. This also includes facilitation of the Health and Wellbeing Alliance.

Supporting NHS volunteer managers

The team also provides leadership on volunteering policy, advice and guidance for volunteering within the NHS and peer support networks for Volunteer Managers within the NHS. The aim is to share best practice and scale high quality, impactful volunteering across the NHS for the benefit of patients, staff, NHS services and volunteers.

For support, guidance or information on developing volunteering or engaging volunteers in service delivery contact england.volunteering@nhs.net