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‘Going further together’ report launched

New research from Locality explores factors and recommendations for successfully involving VCSE organisations in neighbourhood health ecosystems.

Our latest health and wellbeing report – Going further together – examines the critical role of voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations in neighbourhood health ecosystems.

It is the latest instalment in our work on the government’s VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance (HW Alliance) – representing community organisations in the development of policy to tackle health inequalities.

The report, developed alongside NHS England’s Voluntary Partnerships team, builds on the knowledge developed in our 2022 paper, Creating greater collaboration between Primary Care Networks and the VCSE sector.

We know the challenges that the NHS and those accessing their services are facing - inadequate access to urgent care, continuity of care, patient satisfaction, primary care capacity, and staff morale.

We also know that fantastic work is being done to combat these challenges, and the important role that VCSE organisations can play to help overcome these at the neighbourhood level.

Working with local VCSE organisations and health system staff, including clinicians, across England, we identified four overarching areas to succeed in this area:

  1. Connection – VCSE organisations play a critical role in building trust and facilitating connection and relationships at neighbourhood level. They can build bridges between practitioners and patients, particularly those the health system struggles to reach. They help to develop understanding and disseminate information, bringing the health system and communities closer together.
  2. Ways of working – Where it is enabled to, the VCSE bring innovative and holistic approaches to develop new ways of working and deliver key services. VCSE perspectives help to address power imbalances in care and support, provide rich additional data sources, and support cultural translation.
  3. Co-location – There are vast opportunities presented by the co-location of VCSE and statutory health services, for collaboration, communication, and co-delivery. Quality working relationships between health partners, VCSE workers and patients are better facilitated by co-location and improve the quality of care delivered.
  4. Infrastructure support and sustainable development – Whilst pockets of innovation are being funded in this area, further investment could transform delivery and impact. VCSE organisations are already delivering on NHS priorities and integrating link working with community development, but training and long-term investment is needed to maximise this potential.

The report breaks these areas down into 16 key learnings and 10 clear recommendations for the health system – for Primary Care Networks, local authorities, Integrated Care Systems, and national policy makers.

It also includes four recommendations for local VCSE organisations to improve their partnership working within neighbourhood health ecosystems.

It brings these issues to life through real-life examples of partnership working already taking places across the country.

Alongside these, we have produced “explainer” documents for VCSE organisations on Integrated Care Systems and the Primary Care Network Direct Enhanced Services (DES) contract. The latter is available on request via policy@locality.org.uk.

If you’re interested in our other recent health and wellbeing work, check out our dedicated HW Alliance page.

You’ll find more research and recommendations on the role of ‘community anchor organisations’ in illness prevention services and the wider determinants of health, and on the value of community spaces in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

If you’d like to find out more about our ongoing health and wellbeing work, please contact sam.hepher@locality.org.uk.