This report has been written in partnership with the Foundation Trust Network and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. Its purpose is to show health care providers and commissioners how building partnerships with the voluntary sector can improve patient care, by working together to meet the five key areas of the NHS Mandate:
- Helping people live longer
- Managing ongoing physical and mental health conditions
- Helping people recover from episodes of ill health or following injury
- Making sure people experience better care
- Providing safer care
Building on good practice
While evidence shows that these partnerships are successful in preventing illness and providing more care in the community, there are still some barriers, such as “lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities across sectors.” This report is not suggesting options that all organisations must adopt; rather, it is building on existing good practice and making recommendations for how these partnerships could work.
With a demand for trusts to operate more efficiently, by sharing responsibilities with the voluntary sector, resources and expertise can be spread more widely. To demonstrate how successful partnerships are already in operation and facilitating continued care in the community, the report contains details of several case studies, including:
Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust built a partnership with Certitude, an organisation that helps people with mental health needs and learning disabilities to access education, training and employment.
- Ashford and St Peter’s Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust are working together with nursing homes and GPs to improve care for older people.
- Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust have established the Ripon Wellbeing Collaborative with the voluntary sector, religious and public sector leaders. This organisation helps focus collective resources on the long term needs and priorities of the local communities.
- Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust is working with the voluntary sector to provide more co-ordinated service to people with the early signs of dementia.
- Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust are working with One Housing Group to support people with complex needs.
- Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust work with several voluntary sector organisations so that they can make sure people with personality disorders can be treated and supported in the community.
Bridging the gap
These are just a sample of the case studies, and there are several more, together with recommendations suggesting how other healthcare providers and commissioners can start building partnerships. These all seem to be formal partnerships, with contracts/agreements in place so that each party knows what their role is. This stops patients falling through the net and getting lost in the system.
With the NHS being expected to do more with less, it makes sense to look at the wider picture and see what other resources are available. Voluntary sector organisations are very focused towards particular population groups, for example people with dementia or personality disorders. They are more familiar with the needs of these patients than possibly the generalist foundation trusts. They often have networks in the communities, such as Dementia Cafés, and have a connection with the people who need additional support.
As commissioners, take a look at these recommendations and see how you can apply them in your own organisation. Is there a particular patient group which has gaps in their care delivery? Is there a voluntary sector organisation that you could join forces with to fill those gaps. The combination of health care and voluntary sector organisations can lead to greatly improved, innovative, whole-person care and increased patient satisfaction.
Working together to deliver the Mandate: strengthening partnerships between the NHS and the voluntary sector (PDF)
The King’s Fund