Healthy communities together

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The King's Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund (TNLCF) have joined forces to support genuine partnership-working in local areas between the voluntary and community sector, the NHS and local authorities to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities. The Healthy communities together programme offers up to £3 million of grant funding and £850,000-worth of leadership development support to place-based partnerships.

Healthy communities together – phase one

Six partnerships are participating in phase one of Healthy communities together – they are listed below. Each partnership includes voluntary organisations, NHS organisations and local authorities. In phase one, lasting nine months from February 2021, they will develop plans and test approaches. They will implement these in phase two, aiming to transform the way communities, voluntary organisations, the NHS and local authorities work together in their area. Phase two will last for three years from 2022 to 2024.

Grants from TNLCF will enable each place to develop capacity for working together and support community organisations’ participation. In addition, The King’s Fund will provide sustained support to partnerships throughout the Healthy communities together programme, helping and challenging them to work together in new ways and to foster stronger relationships.

As the programme progresses, The King’s Fund and TNLCF will also work with the Healthy communities together partnerships to identify and disseminate learning from their experience.

Community is the best medicine (virtual conference)

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The partnerships in their own words

Coventry – Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire and partners 

‘The two problems we want to un-stick are health inequalities, which are persistent where we are, and the relationships between our sectors.

‘We want to bring the whole system together – starting from individuals and moving out to their families, friends, neighbours, local voluntary sector groups and services, and then up to secondary and primary care – through a series of large, place-based conversations to hear and understand the story of lived experience, to explore together what an improved story would look like, and to plan how to create it together.

‘In the first nine months we’re going to do that with people experiencing mental health issues who are going in and out of formal mental health services. The practical outcome that we want is to have a really well-tested and refined model, that we can apply across the health and care system for other issues or cohorts of concern over the following three years.’

Croydon – One Croydon Alliance

‘We’ve got a vision to transform how we deliver care and our One Croydon Alliance has been working hard to do this – moving power to local people and communities, focusing on the wider determinants of health and being proactive in preventing ill-health – but we know we need to do more to help reduce local health inequalities.
‘We believe that the strong voluntary and community sector in Croydon is best placed to empower people to improve their wellbeing, and we have seen this in action in the collective local response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to build on and develop an even better quality of partnership for our borough. We want One Croydon to be part of a much broader coalition, connected to all sections of our community.
‘We have huge differences in financial inequality and health inequality, so we really need programmes that are locality based to meet the needs of people in different parts of the borough and we are starting to put these in place. Our focus over the first nine months, as we develop our locality approach, will be to hear from people locally and act on what they tell us; to develop a new way of commissioning that brings our budgets together across health and the care; and develop leadership that fully involves the voluntary and community sector as well as the statutory bodies.’

Gloucestershire – Gloucestershire Enabling Active Communities 

‘We want to create sustainable, transformative change and rip up the rule book about how we work in partnership across the whole county.

‘First, we want to widen the discussion that we’re having, deepen our understanding of people’s priorities, and be present in communities without an agenda or something set in our minds to work on together – genuinely be in communities listening to people and understanding their priorities. At the moment we would accept that we’re not reaching everyone, we’d like to create a partnership where everyone has an equal seat at the table and reach out to all of the voluntary and community sector organisations in Gloucestershire, all of our communities, allowing everyone to have their voice heard. It’s about “together we are greater than the sum of our parts”. So how can we, through real collaboration, find new and different ways to improve lives?

‘What can we achieve through this? We aim for the stars in Gloucestershire, it’s kind of limitless really. We just want to completely change the way we’re doing things in the system, underpinned by the development of a culture and way of doing things, our “Gloucestershire way”, that allows us to really “do with” instead of “do to”.’

Leeds – Solidarity Network and partners

‘Systems that work better for marginalised communities work better for all communities. We want to work on what “commissioning from the margins” looks like, to create a model that could work for a range of marginalised groups. And to make a paradigm shift to support it, from transactional to mutual relationships between our local authority, NHS and voluntary and community sector.

‘We’re looking to ensure real participation and real ownership with our experts by lived experience and our communities. We haven’t pinned down the detail yet because we want to be taken there by our communities. But in the first nine months we’re looking to develop a learning partnership of organisations that can be ready to approach the challenge of systems change in Leeds. We’ll bring together a steering group including the Solidarity Network, NHS and public health and most importantly experts by lived experience. We’re going to resource that properly and ensure it is meaningful interaction with our communities that can translate their stories into actions.

‘In the first nine months a lot of the focus will be on system mapping: across all the different structures we’ll be looking at where marginalised communities appear, how they appear, how that has led to change, whether it supports collaborative and mutual relationship-building, whether participation is real. We’ll also map out who are the leaders at those points of the system, where is their power and what is their passion, so that we can understand the levers and the points where we can make real change happen.’

Newham – Well Newham 

‘Throughout the Covid-19 response we’ve done a lot of prototyping in Newham so we’re taking that and we’re running with it. We’re looking to engage residents from ethnic minority groups and faith communities to co-produce prototypes for interventions to improve diet and weight management that are trauma informed, that include mental health impact and are developed with the local population.

‘In phase one, we think we’ll prototype 10 interventions and prioritise 5 to pilot. We’re looking at tailoring them to different groups, working with them to identify what an intervention would look like that they would be able to engage with and would meet their needs.

‘We know we’re not going to get to behaviour change if we haven’t dealt with all the upstream things – think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, all those upstream things – you’re not going to work on your diet if your housing is all over the place or you’re depressed or you’re experiencing domestic violence. So, our interventions need to connect with others across the hierarchy of needs and also with people’s lived experience in relation to finance and employment and their built environment. That means us thinking and working with partners across the borough in ways that are really quite different to the current ways, taking a whole-system approach.’

Plymouth – Plymouth Octopus Project (POP) and partners

‘We know social connection and isolation are strongly linked to health inequalities so our aim is to build connected communities, but the question really is “How?”, because there’s not a single approach to building social connection and there’s not a single approach to building communities. The only way that we’re going to understand is by talking to people about what social connection means in their lives. And if we can have that conversation in a participatory, open way we enable more to come out of it. 

‘If you’re having a conversation with someone about their social connections they’re not going to talk just about services, they might talk about their gardener coming in, or their neighbour – so what would it look like if we had a conversation with a bunch of gardeners across Plymouth about the social good they provide by the act of just taking care of somebody’s garden and having that cup of tea when they do so?

‘We’ve had a history in Plymouth of conversations that developed into community hubs, the complex lives alliance… big developments that joined services up to people. What we’re hoping we can do is not just transform the system through changes to services but actually transform the city in terms of the movement-building we want to see.’

More information

For further information on this programme, please contact