As the only member of the Wellbeing Collective from a 3rd sector background I couldn’t accept the invitation to write a blog without saying something about how it is to be standing alone, a stranger in a strange land full of NHS (or ex NHS) people: different traditions, different behaviours, different language.
I joke of course. For me, it is new partnership and with it I’ve found a group of new colleagues that couldn’t have been kinder, more welcoming, or any more encouraging. As part of my work, I’ve loved working in Somerset and Sussex with groups of NHS professionals whose passion, enthusiasm and occasional bouts of genius quite take my breath away. For me, no immigration check demanded, no guidebook needed, not a Babel fish in sight. It’s all felt very natural!
Two reports published in February 2018 focus on aspects of the 3rd sector – NHS relationships and partnerships. The Kings Fund’s “Commissioner Perspectives” describes the range of commissioner views on the sector: a strong sense of partnership and co-production at one end of the spectrum, and those who see a market of disparate competing providers at the other.
The second is the Richmond Group’s “Tapping the Potential” on cross-sector collaboration in Somerset, where the Right Thing Programme has built on an historically strong voluntary sector, added some imaginative STP leadership, and collectively discovered the wealth of resources that appear when the NHS looks outside its own ranks to civic society, valuing the sector’s “independence and headspace” as well as its capacity to deliver. The sector was able to support patient pathways in and out of hospital and found considerable public support for social prescribing. The trick now is to find sustainable funding models and maintain the momentum.
Like any new and exciting partnership, including my own, what I’ve appreciated in my new colleagues at the Wellbeing Collective is their commitment to learning from the evidence, sharing it widely, and their sheer positivity: the clear sense that NHS clinicians in leadership roles really can find solutions to the array of intractable problems they face. It is self-evident to me that the NHS and the 3rd sector share the same values. But it’s the 3rd sector vision, shared by some but by no means all NHS leaders – of communities finding their own solutions with NHS and other professionals there in support – which is at the heart of true integration and could yet transform healthcare. And that will demand new NHS partnership behaviours – unfamiliar to many in the NHS – which value influence over power and are prepared to engage directly with the communities they serve.
Richard Barritt – Consultant, The Wellbeing Collective.