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A review of the West Suffolk Buurtzorg test-and-learn in 2017–18

What is it like for clinicians and managers to try to provide truly holistic health and social care for people at home, using small self-managing neighbourhood teams?

In 2017, a group of health and social care organisations in West Suffolk came together to run a test-and-learn of the Buurtzorg model of care. This model, which was first developed in the Netherlands, involves small neighbourhood teams of nurses providing care and support to people in their own homes, with an emphasis on mobilising all the resources in the local community and the individual’s networks to support them to regain their independence.

In the context of the English health and social care system, this way of working involves a radical departure from traditional hierarchical forms of management and work allocation. It also brings together health and social care, which are usually commissioned, financed and provided by two separate statutory systems.

The King’s Fund was commissioned by the East of England Local Government Association to conduct a review of the test-and-learn in its first year. We used in-depth interviews, reviews of internal documents and administrative data and observations at an interactive workshop to record the progress of the experiment and to generate learning with the participants. The review pays particular attention to staff experience. A parallel piece of work was commissioned from the local HealthWatch organisation to explore the experiences of patients/clients and their unpaid carers.

Our blog, written by the report’s lead author, summarises some of the learning points for others interested in drawing on the Buurtzorg model in their work.