A new year is often a time when we all look at ourselves and ask: what can I do to take better care of myself? Today, barely into the New Year, is a timely opportunity to look at the amazing work that is going on across the country to empower people and communities in their own health and wellbeing since the launch of the Five Year Forward View in late 2014.
The old proverb of prevention being better than cure is a common theme in this landmark publication, which warned that the NHS would be “on the hook” for the consequences of not tackling avoidable illnesses. Pressure on our services is growing and it is clear that the relationship between the NHS and the public and their communities needs to change.
This means promoting healthier lifestyles and wellbeing, and supporting people with long term conditions in managing their own health and care. Since the 2015 launch of the 50 vanguards for the new care models programme, we can see how reshaping the way care is delivered within communities is already producing some fantastic results.
This was all made possible by the vanguards working with the People and Communities Board, patients, the voluntary sector and representatives of the wider health and care system, to set out six key principles to define what good empowerment of people and their communities looks like. These include making care and support truly person-centred – which is personalised, coordinated and empowering – and ensuring services are created in partnership with people and their communities. It also includes working more closely with the voluntary and community sector, encouraging people to volunteer and identifying, supporting and involving carers.
Connecting and supporting
With these principles underpinning vanguard work in empowering communities, we are already seeing some brilliant examples of how this is making a difference. At Better Care Together (Morecambe Bay Health Community) vanguard (@BCTMorecambeBay), an initiative called ‘Let’s Get Moving’ is aimed at getting schoolchildren to undertake exercise regularly. Better Care Together has also been putting support for self-care into action with a community-led series of weekly groups, ‘Hope and cope’, which bring together local people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes, depression and coronary heart disease – where the aim is to encourage them to support one another.
One regular attendee, Emma, said: “This group helps people going through a hard time. It’s about connecting and supporting people with conditions that are both similar to, and different from, the one you are living with. I feel the meetings provide people with companionship when they feel alone so that they don’t need to keep going to the GP surgery.”
At Symphony Integrated Healthcare (South Somerset) vanguard (@SymphonyProj) an ‘enhanced primary care’ model sees health coaches work alongside GPs to support people with long term conditions in improving their health and wellbeing, and in connecting them with voluntary sector-led activities within their local communities, such as walking, cooking and ‘knit and natter’ clubs.
Jennie is 60 and lives with a number of chronic, long-term conditions. She works with a health coach and said: “I get a phone call almost every week to see that I’m ok. There’s no waiting to see them and if I was ill I know they’d come out and it’s brilliant; really brilliant.”
So clearly a lot of truly innovative work has been delivered by some very creative, dedicated teams. More importantly, it is delivering results, including helping to reduce the pressure on busy GP and A&E services. It’s now time to inspire everyone else to do the same.
To continue to support these initiatives we have chosen 15 vanguards to provide a package of intensive support, built on the evidence base of the 2016 initiative 'Realising the Value' and which will be provided through our own empowering people and communities team. Over the next year, these vanguards will meet regularly as part of a learning network, sharing their great ideas and innovations and supporting spread of best practice across the wider health and care system.
In the past, I think it would be fair to say that involving people and communities in health and care was seen as being the ‘icing on the cake’. It’s not. It needs to be the norm – something we do intuitively without giving it a second thought. The new care model vanguards have made great strides in making this a reality, but there is of course much more to do.
This blog was first published on the NHS England website on 25 January 2017.