Working together to deliver the Mandate: Strengthening partnerships between the NHS and the voluntary sector

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NHS and voluntary sector providers have a key role to play in delivering the priorities set out in the NHS Mandate, alongside commissioners and others in the wider health and care system. Some emergent and innovative local partnerships are already achieving impressive results in delivering high-quality, person-centred care – often producing significant cost savings too. But much more can be done.

This report, commissioned by the Foundation Trust Network (FTN) and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), pulls together a wide range of innovative partnerships and projects between health trusts and voluntary sector providers across the country to consider how the barriers to effective partnership working can be overcome. Drawing on these innovations as well as discussions at a roundtable event hosted by The King’s Fund, it presents recommendations addressed to different parts of the health and care system so that each can play their part in supporting trusts and voluntary sector providers to work together more effectively to deliver the Mandate.

Key findings

The reforms under way at national and local levels offer an opportunity for providers and commissioners to consider more innovative approaches to improving the co-ordination and delivery of care. Moves towards greater competition for the provision of NHS services are not necessarily at odds with partnerships between trusts and voluntary sector providers. But developing such partnerships will involve moving away from the traditional command and control culture.

  • Strategic leadership within local partner organisations will be vital to creating a supportive, enabling culture and to removing the barriers (real or perceived) to partnership working. But there is also a need for a national dialogue about how to develop new and innovative models of care.
  • Locally led partnerships offer the opportunity to reduce fragmentation, drive efficiencies and deliver cost savings, and improve the patient experience. To work effectively together, trusts and voluntary sector providers need to establish clear roles and responsibilities, develop new skills to support a range of partnership models and governance structures, share risks and rewards, and develop business skills that can help deliver shared aims and improved outcomes.

Policy implications

System leaders should actively support partnership working across trusts, the voluntary sector and broader provider networks, providing strategic leadership and support for emergent and innovative models of care delivery. The Department of Health should ensure that there is a coherent system of incentives and levers that support greater partnership working.

Partnerships can be supported through more innovative commissioning. Commissioners can encourage partnership working by contracting for outcomes that would be most readily achieved through providers coming together to design and deliver a co-ordinated approach.

Policy-makers and other influencers should facilitate and actively support discussions at national and local levels about the benefits of new models of working. They can play an important role by identifying and disseminating best practice examples through established forums to demonstrate impact and encourage emergent partnerships.


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