How can charities influence health service transformation?

In April, I blogged about our work following the progress of sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) areas that are building strategic partnerships with their voluntary sector. We gained some interesting (and not too surprising) insight into the key ingredients of success in these partnerships.

More than meets the eye

Voluntary organisations have a huge role to play in public services. In addition to service delivery, we are commissioned to gather user-insight, run patient participation through organisations such as HealthWatch, manage social prescribing schemes, and more. There is also now a groundswell of voluntary sector involvement in the strategic planning and transformation of health and social care services going on around England.

What are the key ingredients of success?

By following some of these partnerships over several months, we found that it is not so much the model or structure that emerges, but the process of reaching that model and a few key components that create success. These essential components take time to develop but getting them in place at the outset can save considerable time later and increase impact.

We discovered these five key components of success:

1 Building relationships

In all the areas where there has been a lasting meaningful partnership, one of the key factors was time spent building relationships, in both formal and  informal settings.

‘The two-day learning event facilitated by NCVO was an invaluable opportunity to build our team and foster trusting working relationships.’

2 Developing shared vision and values

Taking time to develop a shared vision and understand values, leads to a number of positive impacts. These include stronger and more trusting relationships, partners being committed to achieving the same outcome and a clear sense of direction and purpose. In Staffordshire a group of hospices formed a provider alliance to develop end-of-life care. Participation from their clinical commissioning group (CCG) and Public Health ensured a strong connection to the health and well-being board. This created a network of people working together to improve end-of-life care, as well as benefits to service-users.

3 Developing principles of joint working

A partnership in Salford co-produced documentation to underpin their relationships and engagement processes. Salford Together (partnership of NHS organisations) and the local voluntary sector created a memorandum of understanding (MoU) through Salford Council for Voluntary Service. This gives the voluntary sector an equitable role as a key strategic partner in Salford Together. Partners then created a collaboration agreement which provides the tools to deliver the ambitions set out in the MoU. This enabled partners to provide the best services and support for the people of Salford. This led to positive approaches and better relationships between sector partners, encouraged collaboration, built trust and enabled transformational work.

4 Investment and resources

A senior manager at Bolton Community and Voluntary Services undertook a one year, two- day per week, secondment role to strengthen connections and support new ways of working between their local NHS trust and the voluntary sector. This led to increased awareness and understanding of the voluntary sector ‘offer’, increased opportunities for the sector to inform the design and delivery of services, increased service-referrals and better service outcomes.

5 Leadership

Voluntary organisations in Bristol became involved in planning a proposed new model of frailty care. As a result, Voscur were able to present invaluable community insight. This resulted in Voscur being asked to advocate for the voluntary sector on the programme board. There was a commitment at management level in the STP to engage with voluntary organisations, including places on the programme board. This led to voluntary sector advocates becoming integral to frailty services in the area, improved ‘system-thinking’, and public sector engagement activities building on, rather than duplicating, voluntary sector intelligence.

More information

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Lev Pedro Lev is our public services senior officer. His work supports voluntary organisations to succeed in tendering for public service contracts and develop consortia. He also leads on NCVO’s relationships with infrastructure organisations.

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