“Is 2016 really one of the worst years in history?”
That headline appeared in ‘The Telegraph’ back in July. It was probably a bit early to call it, but 2016 has certainly been an odd year. Brexit, Trump, conflict, division… it has been a bumpy ride.
Beyond international politics, it has been a rough time for health and care. A crisis in social care, huge NHS deficits, a government anti-lobbying clause, multiple junior doctor strikes, and major reforms under the guise of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) being conducted with little or no engagement.
That would be one way of looking at it, but we shouldn’t ignore the silver linings.
2016 was the year that the broader health and care community finally got vocal about social care being in crisis. The announced flexibility in the social care precept is inadequate, but at the Commons Liaison Committee on Tuesday Theresa May did confirm that the government is working on a long-term solution. Similarly, although Jeremy Hunt still treats NHS funding as a future problem rather than a live issue, he has conceded that the NHS will need increased funding.
STPs are a similar story. The process has been poorly handled, but fundamentally, they pose an incredible opportunity to move to a more coordinated system where the broader needs of a population are considered. Through the People and Communities Board we worked to embed the ‘Six principles for engaging people and communities’ as a requirement of all STPs.
One positive from 2016 was publication of ‘Realising the Value’, which National Voices jointly delivered. It provides a road map for creating a ‘new relationship with people and communities’.
Our sector's strength
Many of these silver linings are in no small part thanks to persistent lobbying and a unified front from voluntary organisations. One thing 2016 has shown is that when the voluntary sector puts its mind to something, it is strong and powerful. Remember the anti-lobbying clause? We made a concerted effort to combat its introduction, and it has now been watered down significantly. Look to the National AIDS Trust’s success in the PrEP court case for further evidence of our sector’s strength.
Thank you to all of our members for your involvement and support throughout 2016. A united voluntary sector, speaking in unison, can achieve a lot of things.
From myself and all the team at National Voices, have a happy and relaxing festive break. We will see you in the New Year, refreshed, revitalised and ready to face whatever 2017 throws at us.