Turning words into actions

Jo BakerHello, my name is Jo.

In July 2022 the newly establish West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) and representatives from our voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which cemented our commitment to work together for the benefit of the people who live in West Yorkshire.

The MOU recognised that the VCSE sector are a key and equal partner in achieving the integrated care board’s ambitions and vision. It committed to the equitable inclusion of the VCSE in governance and decision-making arrangements, including as a full voting member of the ICB Board and on ICB Committees at place (Bradford District and craven, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield District). It set out clearly the commitment to active and meaningful involvement of the VCSE sector across our health and care partnership and to working in ways that enabled greater sustainability for the sector, and simpler, more accessible commissioning.

So, one year on – have we seen any difference? Has anything changed? Or is it just another document sitting on a shelf?!

In West Yorkshire we are keen to turn the MOU into actions. Some changes are going to take much more time, but we can already see tangible change.

  • We have a full voting member on our ICB bringing the perspective of the VCSE. Kim Shutler has now been in that role since September 2022.
  • We have VCSE representatives on each of the place based ICB Committees.
  • We have a permanent 3-person team (2.2 FTE) working across the ICB with VCSE colleagues to progress our ambitions. Our Harnessing the Power of Communities (HPoC) Programme acts as an enabler for change in how we collaborate with the sector. This investment has led to significant change in how we work with the VCSE, bringing innovative, person centred, community-based solutions to the table, and enabling the Partnership to further understand and embrace the potential of the VCSE in tackling health inequalities and working with some of our communities least likely to access statutory services.
  • The VCSE is threaded through our refreshed ICB strategy and plans and has been actively involved in developing these. We have more work to do in ensuring this is a consistent approach across the system – but we can see how the VCSE is becoming more involved in working together to identify innovative and community-based solutions in both prevention and the response to those recovering from and living with long term illnesses and health issues.
  • There has been an ICB engagement session focused on the VCSE followed by the presentation of a paper to the ICB Board with key actions to take forward this agenda for change. Recommendations were all accepted and are now being built into plans at place and in WY programmes for implementation.
  • Co –production – working with communities and the VCSE and partners across health and care is helping us design better services, tackle challenges patients face in accessing care, and enabling people to get the right help earlier. We are moving towards a community powered NHS in West Yorkshire and the VCSE is a significant player in making that change happen.
  • There has been a VCSE focused finance round table with the ICB Chaired by Cathy Elliot, including a discussion around sustainability and social value and what we need to do as a system to ensure we retain and strengthen a vibrant VCSE in WY through changes in how we commission the sector.
  • At the end of March 2023, the ICB allocated £1million to the VCSE, and a further £1.8 million to our Hospices (also part of the VCSE) recognising the immediate challenges faced in terms of sector sustainability. We hope to see this become recurrent funding.

Jo Baker with colleagues from across the VCSE sectorQuarterly meetings with the Chair of our ICB, Cathy Elliott, and the CEO, Rob Webster, have helped us to keep us on track and monitor progress. And, to think about the things we haven't really got going on yet.

We know we have some big ‘wicked issues’ to tackle still: information sharing; digital inclusion; planning earlier for example for winter pressures; greater investment in smaller, grass roots organisations who are directly connected to communities; and simplifying and aligning commissioning processes across West Yorkshire.

We have ambitions to put the recommendations of both the Hewitt Review and the Fuller Stocktake report into action – investing in communities and neighbourhood teams and shifting resource to prevention and staying well. The VCSE is of course a significant stakeholder in this.

We are on a journey as we transform our approach to health and care to ensure everyone has access to the information, support and care they need to stay well. The VCSE is a critical part of this change, and each of us has a role to play in making our ambitions a reality – whichever team or sector you work in, wherever in West Yorkshire you are based – you are an important part of this change. We encourage you to be part of the transformation, fully embracing the contribution of the VCSE as we continue to strengthen our approach to tackling health inequalities and improving the health and well-being of everyone living in West Yorkshire.

“Well done is better than well said.” — Benjamin Franklin

Have a good weekend all,