Eight months on from the implementation of NHS reforms, the time felt ripe for a second event on how health charities are adapting to the changes. It seems there’s a continuing high level of uncertainty about what they actually mean—as one of our speakers pointed out, despite approaching the normal nine month gestation period, we still don’t know what’s being delivered! But with a better perspective on the future, we heard useful insights from some great speakers already delivering work in the new health environment.

One of the key messages was essentially ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Yes there are challenges to be faced and some risks to consider, but changes in the NHS are happening, so charities need to ensure they make the most of any opportunities that arise. It can be time consuming and complicated—but there could also be real potential for new approaches to transform services and move towards ‘integrated care’, something the voluntary sector has been advocating for years.

An important theme for me was partnerships. There seems a clear rationale for charities to work in partnership with each other—to influence the local agenda, collaborate on contracts and ensure that the ‘patient voice’ is truly heard. While this has often been talked about, now is the time for charities to really put it into practice—to show commissioners how collectively strong and effective the voluntary sector can be.

For the ‘new NHS’, partnerships with other organisations are also essential. There are more groups to engage with, more commissioners to negotiate with, and more suppliers to bid against. For charities to succeed, collaboration rather than competition is the way forward.

So how can charities develop these partnerships? I was pleased that most of the advice offered at the session reflects NPC’s findings on collaboration and commissioning and our feedback to DWP on the Work Programme:

  • Focus on outcomes: Charities need to demonstrate clearly to partners what outcomes they can deliver and what is unique about their approach or service.
  • Adapt to different cultures: Charities, the NHS and private providers all have difference cultures—that much is given. Accepting and adapting to this and working effectively with each partners’ needs  is essential for a successful partnership.
  • Demonstrate impact: Broader than just outcomes, charities can also show the wider impact and social value that their approach or service offers to engage potential partners.
  • Reflect the local agenda: A key strength of many charities is their presence ‘on the ground’ and their understanding of local issues. Communicating this to potential partners again demonstrates what charities can add to the mix.

Of course some of this is easier said than done—smaller charities are struggling to even engage with their local CCG’s—but by working to a shared agenda and demonstrating a clear case for what value you can bring, charities will have the best chance of developing meaningful partnerships that could really generate change within the health sector.

In this short clip, our speakers summarise their key points:

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