Stretching traditional partnerships (STPs) – the Cheshire and Merseyside approach | Michael Wood

Michael Wood face to camera

Connecting the dots between local health and care partnerships and local industrial strategies can help both make people better and better off, argues NHS local growth adviser Michael Wood. An approach in Cheshire and Merseyside, which is stretching across traditional boundaries, explores how.

It is not only the health and care sector becoming more focused on place-based collaboration. As sectors, strategies and people begin to collide locally, we are starting to see a greater understanding of how our own sector is dependent on the wider success of the ‘place’. As local growth adviser, my role is to help define, develop and determine these conversations.

The NHS Confederation co-hosted an event with the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership and the two regional local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in June to explore the economic and social value of the local NHS pound. Not a typical event title for an STP to lead, but then this wasn’t a typical event.

Underpinning the event were two relatively simply assumptions: 1) there are a range of, as yet, unconnected local organisations all working on improving the prosperity of the region; 2) these organisations and the place stand to benefit from collaborating.

Why focus on the value of the NHS pound?
Recent experience has highlighted that sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) and integrated care system (ICS) leadership teams are still largely unaware of how the local growth agenda is shaping decision making in their locality. This includes the range of new partnerships being developed and the ongoing local process of prioritisation around issues such as skills, investment, infrastructure, connectivity, housing, energy and innovation.

Engaging the organisations responsible for making these important decisions also means influencing them. The STP leadership across Cheshire and Merseyside were keen to play a more involved role in the ongoing development of the region’s two local industrial strategies. They also wanted to highlight their openness to external resources, support and ideas to realise the priorities for the health and care partnership. The NHS taking the first step and highlighting its value and commitment to the local economy was rightly judged important.

Aligning local strategies
It became apparent during the planning of the event that there were several key areas of mutual alignment between both the STP and the industrial strategy. They can loosely be defined as: housing, skills, innovation, prevention, and social value. All important issues locally but also, I suspect, all core parts of any STP.

Central to the day was an ability to weave these issues together, rather than focus on them in isolation. Building a local economy that addresses the looming regional and societal challenges while developing and expanding its industrial base is a complex task.

Acknowledging the different leadership of these individual areas was important, with the five associated plans being presented by a mix of STP, combined and local authority, academic health science network and LEP leaders. It is not enough to know what is happening locally: it’s also about understanding who is best placed to coordinate.

So what next?
This event is the simply the start of the local journey. Present were commissioners, providers, primary care, local and combined authorities, LEPs, voluntary, community and social enterprises, universities and arm’s-length bodies – a diverse mix for whom the place is the only real connector. Maintaining the energy as differing sectors respond to differing demands in differing timescales will be difficult, however, the STP is keen to keep one step ahead.

Its early plans to roll out social value across the footprint, announced at the event, are testament to that – an excellent example of an NHS-led initiative that enables the LEPs to position Cheshire and Merseyside as the place to do business.

What is clear, though, is that this matters. STPs should not detach themselves from helping make people better off, in the same way that local industrial strategies should not dismiss STPs’ role in making people better. Place gives us the chance to see that prosperity pays.

To discuss how a similar approach could help foster local relations in your STP please contact Michael.wood@nhsconfed.org

Michael Wood is the NHS local growth adviser at the NHS Confederation. Follow him on Twitter @NHSLocalGrowth

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