I very much enjoyed National Voices' annual conference, where my colleagues and I reconnected with others working across the voluntary sector. I heard that the Voluntary sector generates £12.2bn benefit to the UK in GVA (gross value added) – as large as our agriculture industry. Duncan Selbie (Chief Executive of Public Health England) reinforced the value of charities by ending his plenary talk by telling us that our work is imperative to the future of healthcare in the UK. One way in which primary healthcare meets the voluntary sector is via Social Prescribing, through which GPs are able to prescribe non-medical interventions - particularly supplied by charities. The recently formed Social Prescribing Network in the UK is leading the way forward with this, and it certainly feels like things are gathering momentum here.
My role at the National Voices conference was to represent the work of Penny Brohn UK on NHS England’s Realising the Value project at the final plenary session of the day. Realising the Value launched in 2016, and provided the evidence for “putting people and communities at the heart of health and wellbeing”. Penny Brohn UK were selected in 2015 as one of the five partner sites within the project to be held up as examples of best practice. We represented self-management education and exemplified this via our work holistically supporting people living well with and beyond cancer (in particular our “Living Well” courses). I spoke about the many ways Penny Brohn UK fed into the acclaimed Realising the Value project. I reflected on our evaluation expertise in collecting Patient Activation Measure (PAM) data to be used as a proxy measure of self-management of health, and the use of our Person-Centred Outcome Measure MYCaW (Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing). Excitingly, the Realising the Value project generated economic modelling to show the impact of services such as Penny Brohn UK’s, with figures such as £950m being saved nationally if self-management and peer support initiatives were used at scale, with £4.5bn in wider social benefits. In the context of Penny Brohn UK specifically, a wider social benefit could be generated of around £13,700 per Living Well course participant.
It was empowering for Penny Brohn UK to be able to feed into the final outputs of Realising the Value – in particular the “how to” guides for self-management and final report, and this work has opened a window for charities like ours to influence NHS England’s future. Realising the Value’s legacy continues through Samantha Jones (NHS England’s Director – New Models of Care) announcing 15 vanguards to exemplify the “relationship and community centred” values of Realising the Value. I ended my time on the panel by asking that the outputs of Realising the Value be acted on now, and not simply replaced by another similar initiative in 18 months, promising the same. Sam Jones responses to me by saying that the time for action is now, and this is echoed in her blog.
How are Penny Brohn UK going to take this work forwards? Well, we recently secured a Health Foundation grant to take forward the message from Realising the Value, in the context of Self-Management Education. In connection with this, we are also excited to announce our Living Well conference on 28th February in Bristol. Professor Alf Collins and Ian Benson from NHS England, Annie Finnis (Nesta), and Dr Richard Kimberlee (UWE and Social Prescribing Network), alongside representatives from Penny Brohn UK, will be there to resonate the learnings from Realising the Value. Get tickets for the Living Well conference on our website.