The VCSE Health Review One Year On

A little over a year ago, following a wide-ranging consultation, a group of health and care sector bodies and VCSE representatives published their final joint report looking into partnerships and investment between the two sectors. The recommendations ranged across longer term, broader actions and more specific, short term ones, for actors across central and local government, NHS bodies and the VCSE sector itself. Today, Alex Fox, chair of the Review and chief executive of Shared Lives Plus published his update on the work of the VCSE Health Review Implementation Oversight Group, and here we take a quick look at its progress.

Progress so far

The implementation group is made up of representatives of the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England, the Office \for Civil Society and the VCSE sector, and its work has been to turn the 28 recommendations made in the Review into tangible actions and monitor progress against them.

The Chair’s update reports some significant progress over the last year, in particular the launch of the Health and Wellbeing Alliance, a new strategic partnership programme has between the government representatives listed above and the voluntary sector to focus on health inequalities – of which NCVO is a member. A new grant-giving programme is also expected to be launched later this year that will fund additional work in this area. The Building Health Partnerships programme also appears to be implementing some of the Review’s key messages. The government’s launch of the public services programme also highlighted the challenges faced by smaller charities in delivering public services and will be piloting some trials that seek to address these.

Despite this progress, many of the Review’s recommendations are longer term, and the Chair’s update emphasises how far there is to go – namely that the contribution of voluntary organisations in health and social care is too often seen as non-essential, and there is still a way to go in achieving uniform recognition of the voluntary sector as a core partner to parts of the NHS and local commissioners. There are three recommendations that stand out to address this challenge going forward:

1.  People who use services are best placed to design them

The update highlights the need to ensure the new integrated health and care systems being developed are co-designed with genuine input from the people most affected, by resourcing and working with the community groups who are closest to them. The NHSE-led Integrated Personal Commissioning programme has developed tools and models for local co-production, but there’s a great deal further to go to embed coproduction across these systems and build recognition of the VCSE sector’s role in doing so. Some of the work being conducted by the Health and Wellbeing Alliance relates specifically to building networks between these various stakeholders, although at this stage this won’t cover all localities.

2. Embedding social value

Use of the Social Value Act needs to be routinely embedded into health and care commissioning.

The Implementation Group has worked particularly productively with the CQC which has taken up the challenge of weaving social value and personalisation into its definitions of what great health and care services look like. Going forward there’s a need to build the evidence base for embedding social action, community development and personalisation within health and care services. We were (at least until the snap election) expecting a second review of the Act in the near future, which will be an important opportunity to feed in this evidence.

3. Following through on social prescribing

Social prescribing programmes are about referring people to local, non-clinical services where this may improve their health outcomes. The update identifies the need to ensure that resources follow the prescription under these programmes, and that commissioners build resourcing their VCSE partners into their core budgets, including the local infrastructure bodies which support those partners. NCVO will be watching the roll out of the latest round of the Life Chances Fund with interest, one funding stream of which is closely focused on social prescribing models.

Next steps

Even in the short time since the Review’s final report was published, health and social care systems have changed, in some cases significantly. Going forward, the Implementation and Oversight Group will be considering how the Review’s recommendations may need to be updated in light of these changes, working closely with all the partners that jointly drafted the final report. NCVO will continue to work as part of the Group, as well as through its membership of the Health and Wellbeing Alliance and wider influencing to support this work.

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Michael Birtwistle Michael is our senior policy officer, covering issues around charity tax and finance (including social investment) and the impact of the economy on the sector.

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