Partnerships between trusts and voluntary sector can deliver efficient, high-quality, patient-centred care, according to report

People working together

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:

  1. Helping people live longer
  2. Managing ongoing physical and mental health conditions
  3. Helping people recover from episodes of ill health or following injury
  4. Making sure people experience better care
  5. Providing safer care
Person facing a brick wall

While evidence shows that these partnerships are successful, there are still some barriers

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.

Case studies

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:

  • Folder labelled case study

    The report contains details of several case studies

    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.
Characters fixing a bridge

This stops patients falling through the net and getting lost in the system

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)
R Addicott
The King’s Fund
June 2013

Additional links

NHS Mandate

Foundation Trust Network

Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations

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Caroline De Brún

Caroline De Brún

Caroline has been a medical librarian in a variety of NHS and academic roles since 1999, working in academic, primary and secondary care settings, service improvement, knowledge management, and on several high profile national projects. She has a PhD in Computing and currently develops resources to support evidence-based cost and quality, including QIPP @lert, a blog highlighting key reports from health care and other sectors related to service improvement and QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity, Prevention). She also delivers training and resources to support evidence identification and appraisal for cost, quality, service improvement, and leadership. She is co-author of the Searching Skills Toolkit, which aims to support health professionals' searching for best quality clinical and non-clinical evidence. Her research interests are health management, commissioning, public health, consumer health information literacy, and knowledge management. She currently works as a Knowledge and Evidence Specialist for Public Health England, and works on the Commissioning Elf in her spare time.

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