When I began my year as an older people’s specialist Clore Social Fellow I was interested in looking at asset based community development (ABCD) in relation to social care. My interest had been sparked by what I heard about how this was being put into practice in Leeds. During my Clore year, while shadowing in a hospital which is leading on one of the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans, (STPs) I started to wonder how relevant these ideas were for the NHS.
STPs are place based plans, and planning guidance from NHS England talks about ‘creating new relationships with patients and communities’. This made sense to me. How can you develop place based plans without talking to the people who make up that place? I discovered a range of organisations working on community and citizen engagement in health. I also discovered a lot of criticism of STPs for failure to engage. Looking at some of the STP plans I found the extent to which they mentioned engagement with citizens or communities varied enormously. I could also see some obvious barriers to engagement, including the speed at which the plans have had to be drawn up.
Almost all STPs are led by NHS bodies but the partnerships include local authorities. However, the extent to which they have played a major role varies. Local authorities could play a crucial role in linking STPs with communities. They are not just relevant as the lead for social care and public health; housing, accessible street, community development are all relevant to health, and all part of local authority responsibilities.
The voluntary and community sector is also a key way into place and community. Most STPs refer to their role as providers of quality person centred interventions. Not all recognise the role of the voluntary and community sector as a way to engage with local communities, particularly with disadvantaged groups.
My thoughts on the barriers to citizen engagement in STPs and some possible solutions are set out in my report. I don’t believe this is a challenge solely for STP leadership. It’s one that leaders across health, local authorities and the community and voluntary sector need to grasp.
Please click here to read Sue’s full Provocation Piece, developed as part of her 2016 Clore Social Fellowship.
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