The NHS in Somerset is changing. Here, our Chief Executive, Katherine Nolan, explains what this means and why the VCSE sector needs to be involved
In July, Somerset will become an Integrated Care System (ICS). Decisions about how health and social care services are arranged will be made locally, involving the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations.
These changes are taking place across the country, but what does it mean for us?
The aim of the Somerset ICS is to combine care across different organisations and settings, joining up hospital and community-based services, physical and mental health, and health and social care. This brilliant video by The Kings Fund explains how joined-up care could work in Somerset.
It will be made up of GP surgeries, community and mental health trusts, hospitals and other primary care services, with local authorities, other care providers – and of course, the VCSE.
And I think there needs to be a change. The NHS was set up to provide episodic treatment for acute illness, but it now needs to deliver joined-up support for growing numbers of older people and people living with long-term conditions. As a result, the NHS and its partners need to work differently by providing more care in people’s homes and the community and breaking down barriers between services.
This is a great opportunity for our sector to influence how the NHS and its partners provide services and to make sure the people we support have access to the support they need, when they need it.
As a VCSE infrastructure organisation, a key priority for us is to encourage long term, joined up investment in the sector which enables voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations to deliver consistent, sustainable care and support.
We also want to see greater respect and understanding for our sector. Embedded within their communities, we are adept at accessing hard to reach and vulnerable groups; able to advocate on their behalf and provide practical and emotional support. Many of these groups also support the prevention agenda, recognising the importance of early intervention and population health, and the positive effects that this can have on the wider community. The ICS also offers us an opportunity to create activities which suit Somerset and to build on existing strengths and relationships.
Which is why the VCSE organisations in Somerset are so important – we are rooted in the communities we serve and understand the issues faced. We also have the trust and confidence of those least likely to access traditional health and care services.
There is already a commitment to the VCSE being involved as an equal partner in the ICS, with Spark Somerset acting as conduit for these conversations. Over the coming weeks, we’ll update you on progress and bring you more on how we will support the VCSE sector to engage in this process, in a meaningful way.
We will support the Somerset ICS with a decision-making process which fits neatly with this integrated, collaborative approach. It’s important to us and the sector that we continue to work together to make sure the residents of Somerset get the support they need when they need it.
We’ll be keeping you all updated over the next few months in various ways including newsletters, blogs and forums.
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Over recent years, the work of ICSs across the country has focused on several areas, including:
Reaching a shared view between system partners of local needs and the resources available for health and care
Agreeing a strategic direction for local health and care services based on those needs and resources
Driving service changes that are needed to deliver agreed priorities
Taking a strategic approach to key system enablers, for example by developing strategies around digital technologies and estates
Establishing infrastructure and ways of working to support collaborative working, for example by putting in place new governance arrangements to enable joint decision making and agreeing system-wide leadership arrangements
Strengthening collaborative relationships and trust between partner organisations and their leaders.