“Promising Practice” — NHS England publishes paper on STPs and the third sector

We’ve written extensively about health and social value on this blog, and more recently, with specific reference to Birmingham and Solihull, have been exploring the role that NHS sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) should be playing in helping to embed social value and social enterprise and third sector commissioning.

At last, it seems we are not alone in banging on about these concerns. 

NHS England’s Public Participation Team has just circulated a document called Promising practice: how Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are working with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Sadly, Birmingham is not singled out for good practice but there are interesting examples from elsewhere in the country.

Now the most interesting thing about this document is the other sources it refers to. I found that virtually every report Promising Practice mentions was news to me — perhaps I haven’t been keeping up very well. For example, it draws on and reinforces the recommendations contained in the following:

» Joint review of partnerships and investment in voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in the health and care sector (final report of the VCSE Review Team, May 2016 — chaired by Alex Fox, CEO of Shared Lives Plus). This report notes that “at present an adequate mechanism does not exist for making sense of [the VCSE offer] in ways that can best aid local adoption and spread” and recommends that NHS England uses a framework agreement “to commission a pool of preferred VCSE partners able to support person-centred, community-focussed interventions in defined geographical areas.”

» A new relationship with people and communities Actions for delivering Chapter 2 of the NHS Five Year Forward View: The report from the People and Communities Board to the Chief Executive of NHS England (February 2017). This report says: “Both the VCSE Review and Realising the Value confirmed that healthcare commissioning is still at a very low base when it comes to working in coproduction with the VCSE sector, and to taking a wellbeing approach to commissioning. For example, very few are actively using social value principles in procurement. Indeed, very few procure from the community sector at all.”

» Engaging local people: A guide for local areas developing Sustainability and Transformation Plans (NHS September 2016).

The point I’m trying to make is that at last it does seem that the right noises are being made — certainly by some parts of the NHS — and the dots are being joined-up between STPs, social value and the early intervention, preventative and community-based services that social enterprise and the third sector can offer.

The key problem, of course, is how on earth the sector — with its diminished capacity and spiralling demand — keeps on top of this slowly evolving agenda and makes the contribution it is not just able to but which is mapped out for it in all of the NHS documents mentioned above.

Working with the sector to develop protocols and agreements, to help establish and maintain networks, and to help the sector clarify and articulate its varied offers — all of which are mentioned in Promising Practice — is one thing. But enabling these services to get in front of commissioners who have not just the flexibility to commission them but also the money to fund those purchases is another matter entirely.

But progress has to start somewhere. If anyone has news about similar STP and VCSE sector progress in Birmingham and Solihull perhaps they can comment here or share links on our Twitter feed.

You can find out more or send your own examples of good practice to the NHS England Public Participation Team by sending mail to Frances Newell.

You may also want to see:

Social Value in health — it doesn’t have to be complicated.

See all blog posts tagged ‘social value’.

See all website material on public services and social value.

 See all website materials on social value and health.

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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