Last week's GSK IMPACT awards showcased the very best in third sector provision of health and social care services.
Take overall winner HALE (Health Action Local Engagement), where a broad focus, from chlamydia testing to Tai Chi classes, helps promote healthy living, prevent disease and reduce hospital admissions in West Yorkshire; or award winner Arts for Health Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who successfully promote the role of creativity and the arts in improving health and wellbeing, and bringing a purpose and focus to people's lives.
Overall there were 19 awards made to charities this year under the scheme run by The King's Fund in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline. For all of them I was struck by the sheer scale of the impact these organisations made compared with the resources available to them.
The value they add is out of proportion to the little money they spend – put simply, they get a lot of 'bang for their buck'. Compare this to many public sector services, which can be very expensive to deliver and often add little value, especially when dealing with some of the more intractable issues of our society; long-term conditions, mental health problems and the care of an ageing population.
In the fast-approaching tougher economic climate commissioners in certain areas are fortunate to have charities that already provide these services effectively and efficiently.
Elsewhere, commissioners have much to gain if they are open to fostering and developing relationships with the voluntary and charitable sector, which could provide services that the NHS is struggling to deliver efficiently and directly. The opportunity is there for the taking if commissioners are sufficiently bold, open and innovative to work closely with the third sector.