NHS Reset: The sweet spot where new and old power collide - that's where the magic happens! | Linda Vernon, Peter Armer, Dr Amanda Thornton

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NHS Reset is an NHS Confederation campaign to help shape what the health and care system should look like in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In this blog, part of a series of comment pieces from NHS Confederation members and partners, Dr Amanda Thornton, Linda Vernon and Peter Armer share the extensive collaborative working that’s happening in Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System and the benefits brought to their communities.

Never has the need for collaboration and coordination of efforts across communities, organisations and sectors been more evident and pressing than during the pandemic response. Residents, neighbours, volunteers, key workers and voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) organisations immediately rose to action and have worked tirelessly to support people in need.

With so many working to minimise immediate and secondary consequences of the virus, our challenge was not that more help was needed: the challenge lay in avoiding duplicated effort with well-intentioned efforts being made in blissful isolation, potentially allowing some of our most vulnerable people to be overlooked.  Further, the ‘infodemic’ that flowed from so many sources had potential to cause confusion, stress and disengagement of those very people support services were seeking to help. 

With these challenges in mind, a collaborative emerged in Lancashire and South Cumbria, a social movement drawing willing partners to the table to synergise efforts, support self-management, surface/share resources and strengthen psychological resilience in our communities. A call starting with 20 people grew to a mailing list of over 200 in four weeks. The sudden sharp adaption to work in new ways was softened by aligning intelligence, approaches and expertise across a number of sectors allowing us all to focus on supporting our communities within our own specialisms and expertise.

Fortnightly, people with lived experience join colleagues from health, local government, VCFSE sector, education, police, fire and rescue, local skills and digital skills partnerships, DWP, Healthwatch to share intel, increase opportunities and reduce inequalities. We share examples of great practice on ageing well, workplace health, local health inequalities faced by our BME and LGBT communities, food programmes to address holiday hunger, digital inclusion opportunities, support for children, young people and families, mental health and wellbeing support and more.  We’ve even been joined by one of our amazing paediatric consultants dialling in from holidays in Paris!

While the collaborative shares many touchpoints with the necessary COVID-19 response, governance structures, without formal deliverables, informs strategy while promoting ‘Purpose, Hope and Means’ across our communities. According to one member, the collaborative has become the “beating heart" of Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS.   

"Having 48 years working experience in the public sector, I joined the ICS and collaborative in April. During a period of unprecedented community, individual and establishment turmoil shaking our world, I found inspiration, insight and opportunities to be a voice and hear others. It has been a chance to focus on resilience at every level. The collaborative offers safe, caring wrap-around to multiple disciplines with a constant flow of new and often unexpected connections. Amanda and Linda lead with love, energy and fresh, funky language that catches attention. Most remarkable is the inclusive cross fertilisation of intelligence that eloquently speaks to the new world." Maggie Asquith, Integrated Voluntary Services Lead, Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS.

Sam Tyrer - Prevention and Engagement Lead, Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust – who draws on personal experiences to support children and young people’s emotional wellbeing describes how the collaborative has enabled him to work with three different third sector organisations to develop a train the trainer model, including in different languages. And Katharine Lonsdale - Connect 5 Trainer, N Compass Charity - describes the collaborative as “honest, with integrity and … an open forum to share professional and personal experience, resources and innovation. When I deliver training and we speak about the systems and some of the blocks and barriers they create, it’s brilliant to be able to mention the collaborative as a vehicle for hope and change.”

It also serves as a form of peer support: “It’s been so inspiring and exhilarating having such a diverse range of organisations and experience come together … a breath of fresh air, that really feels like we have one mission and are willing to work together to ensure the best outcomes for our communities. The energy in these calls sets me up for the next fortnight until we meet again. In these strange times where so many of us are working in isolation, this collaborative has certainly helped with my motivation and my own mental health. Long may it continue.” Sharon Burch – Chief Officer, Y Not Aspire CIC

Summarised by Suzie Smith - Senior Operations Manager (Recovery and Resilience), Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust – ”ultimately the biggest benefactors of this collaborative are the communities we live, work and play in. Our shared sentiment is that the biggest issue faced by our communities isn’t a lack of opportunity, but a lack of awareness of opportunity for those who need it most.” Together, we link outwards to every cell, group and local asset, knowing we have avoided duplication, closed gaps and opened doors so our commissioned services can reach all corners of our communities. By ensuring our citizens are also at the table, sharing insights and informing us of what they need, we no longer need to plan service for people, we plan services with people. True coproduction! 

It is perhaps ironic that a global pandemic - and the associated challenges facing our communities and our combined workforce - provided us with the opportunity to create headspace, to find time to share and to take a much more integrated, systems approach than ever before. If ever the COVID-19 cloud had a silver lining – this is it.

Linda Vernon is digital leader of Empower the Person at Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS  Follow them on Twitter @LindaVernon and @HealthierLSC

Peter Armer is independent chair of the VCFSE Alliance, Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS.

Dr Amanda Thornton is digital health and activation clinical lead, Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS. Follow them on Twitter @mandalou172 

Get involved in the NHS Reset campaign 



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