Call for charities and community groups to be more involved in Northumberland health service decisions

The third sector of charities and community groups should be an equal partner in strategic decision-making about healthcare in Northumberland.

Saturday, 14th September 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 10:24 am
Picture c/o Pixabay

That’s the recommendation of representatives of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector to Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board, which also includes the council and NHS organisations.

A report to the board’s meeting on Thursday September 12 ‘identified the value and support the VCSE can provide to the public sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the county’, calling for the not-for-profit sector to be engaged at the start of the decision-making process, ‘in order to ensure that the maximum potential of the sector is actualised’.

Referring to the increasing focus on prevention in healthcare circles, Ralph Firth, a VCSE representative on the board, said: “Volunteering is part and parcel of what’s going on.

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“We will, as a board, be successful by helping each other succeed; we can only help each other by understanding the context in which we all work.”

The report underlines the ‘commitment of NHS England to social prescribing’, which ‘represents a positive shift toward empowering those with social, emotional or practical needs to find solutions to improve their own health and wellbeing, often through accessing VCSE services’.

It continues: ‘Many local organisations already take action on the social determinants of health which directly and indirectly impact on positive health outcomes.

‘Such organisations are potentially a huge part of the solution to loneliness and social isolation, building on the trusted relationships they have developed, often over a number of years.

‘This is particularly relevant for excluded communities that have a history of non-engagement and which statutory or mainstream services find ‘hard to hear’. Too many of these communities often have poor health outcomes.

‘Capitalising on the relationships held by place-based VCSE organisations can prevent needs escalating, reducing costly support further down the line.

‘The VCSE welcomes the opportunity to engage with and help to shape social prescribing in ways that works for the people we support and for the sector.’

Grant funding is another issue raised in the report, as it can ‘enable voluntary and community organisations to work in new and flexible ways with communities to develop new solutions to persistent challenges’.

The report notes that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 enables clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which buy and commission healthcare in an area, to award grants to VCSE organisations that provide relevant services.

In relation to working on behalf of the likes of NHS providers and councils, the report explains that the Northumberland Council for Voluntary Action (NCVA) has in place a quality assurance check for organisations, which has been adapted to ensure that it is in line with national guidance from the Social Prescribing Network.