NHS leaders can learn from their counterparts in the voluntary sector about making efficiency savings, working with increased competition and responding to the need to improve quality and patient experience, says Lisa Weaks
Last week we announced the winners of this year’s GSK IMPACT Awards. The awards, funded by GlaxoSmithKline and run in partnership with the King’s Fund, reward innovative charities that are improving health and wellbeing in their communities.
‘Many voluntary organisations are driven by passionate people who strongly identify with the work they do’
What can leaders in the NHS learn from these organisations? Charities, like everyone in health and social care, are responding to a changing environment in the new NHS − many charities have been investing considerable time and energy into forging new relationships, keeping pace with changing priorities and establishing their role with the new commissioners.
There is growing demand for many of their services but, as the challenging financial climate continues, there is uncertainty over funding and increased competition from other providers.
The organisations that survive, or even thrive, in this environment are driven by inspiring leaders. As the healthcare landscape changes, organisations are finding they need to lead differently, including collaborating with a range of sectors, forming multiple partnerships or even becoming part of a bidding consortium. Their leaders are adapting and are sometimes leading a group of organisations rather than just their own.
Many of these organisations are driven by passionate people who strongly identify with the work they do, and are very clear that the organisation’s priorities focus on the needs of the individual person or patient. Those that can articulate the sometimes less obvious value that third sector organisations bring to healthcare will fend off the competition, demonstrating how they support patients and communities, and showing the cost savings their work can bring to the public purse.
‘The NHS must find new ways to engage with third sector leaders and learn from the leadership they bring to their organisations’
This is a challenging list for any leader, but these qualities can be seen in the winners of this year’s GSK IMPACT Awards. The winners provide an impressive range of services and initiatives.
Their work includes promoting healthy lifestyles and supporting people to better manage their health; building trust among people that traditional services can find hard to reach; working holistically to integrate care across different services; and engaging local people, patients and volunteers to shape services.
Against a general trend for reduced funding, East Lancashire Women’s Centre has doubled in size in the past year and expects to grow further. It has impressive health outcomes − its mental health services show very high recovery rates, which are partly achieved by addressing the whole persons’ needs, not just the mental health issue. They also invest considerable energy in multiple partnerships.
Care Network Cambridgeshire has 130 volunteers who support elderly people after they have left hospital and whose work has been shown to prevent readmissions. It also works with GP practices and around 100 community groups that provide long-term support to patients, ensuring a seamless service.
Yorkshire MESCMAC provides sexual health services and works with men and boys at risk of sexual exploitation. Its testing service costs just £47 per person, in contrast to £150 to visit a NHS sexual health clinic − or over £280,000 across the lifetime cost of treating someone with HIV.
As part of receiving an award, the 10 winning organisations take part in a leadership development programme that helps to build on their success. For many it is the first time they have had access to leadership development and it can have a significant impact on their work.
The NHS faces the challenge of adapting to the health reforms, while making efficiency savings, working with increased competition and responding to the overarching need to improve quality and patient experience. Third sector leaders have a lot of experience of dealing with these types of issues. The NHS must find new ways to engage with them and learn from the leadership they bring to their organisations and the wider health system.
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Lisa Weaks is the third sector programme manager at the King’s Fund. This article also appears on the King’s fund blog