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Building Health Partnerships


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Drawn from our experience of running a number of large-scale programmes.



Developed and delivered in partnership with:





Funded by:

NHS England
Big Lottery Fund
Department of Health


Using action learning approaches, we support tangible improvements to the design, commissioning and delivery of local health services.  



As well as our current initiative, which focuses on self-care, we have run two large scale programmes over the last five years.



Through building relationships and developing collective action, this work sets up effective partnerships between Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VCSE), alongside Health and Well-being Boards and Local Authorities.

5 years
34 areas
850+ orgs


500+ senior leaders engaged from CCGs, Local Authorities & VCSE organisations


130+ relationship building & action planning workshops

Current initiative

Briefing 1 self care

Briefing papers:

Briefing One: Improving self care at a local level.

Are you interested in how STPs are working with the voluntary sector and local people to design health and care services? Do you want to know how self care is perceived at a local level? Or where to start with setting up partnership working?

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The Building Health Partnership Programme

This NHS England funded programme comprised a series of action learning sessions and support that was all about facilitating meaningful cross sector engagement between newly established Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and their communities. The main focus was on partnerships – building trust and mutual understanding between voluntary organisations, CCGs, Health & Well-Being Boards (HWBB) and Local Authorities.


The programme was designed to enable senior staff in all organisations to take key leadership roles in responding to the challenges of transforming health commissioning and delivery in their local area.


The national element of the programme created opportunities to share models and experience of effective approaches to cross sector working, across the country.

Pilot year

  • 4 areas: Cornwall, South Cheshire, St Helen’s Central Bedfordshire
  • 16 sessions, approx, 100 participants.

Year 1

  • 12 areas: Bradford, Bristol, Croydon, Dudley, Durham & Dales, Hackney, Hampshire, Manchester, SE Staffordshire & Seisdon Peninsula, Shropshire, Swindon and Wakefield
  • 1 x national event – 100 participants
  • 48 sessions, approx – 400 participants

Year 2

  • 6 areas: Bexley, Birmingham, Bolton, Hull, Nottingham, South Gloucestershire
  • 1 x national event – approx 40 participants
  • 22 sessions –  approx 200 participants

Building Health Partnerships: Overview of four areas


The Health & Social Value Programme


Funded by the Department of Health, the programme was established to support the implementation of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 in health and social care commissioning with a focus on supporting Local Authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups to commission for Social Value. There was also encouragement to HWBB and other local partners to promote social value in the commissioning and delivery of health and care services and improve charities / social enterprises’ understanding of their own social value impact.


The overall aim was to develop and support effective relationships between sector leaders to promote joint working around social value. The programme was delivered over three years which offered up valuable peer learning opportunities for all selected areas on a rolling basis. This unique approach was key in making things stick and continues to build knowledge and networks beyond the funded programme.


  • Year 1: 4 areas, 16 sessions: Halton, Salford, Milton Keynes, Calderdale
  • Year 2: 4 areas, 16 sessions: Haringey, North Tyneside, Reading, Leeds
  • Year 3: 4 areas, 16 sessions: Brighton & Hove, Lambeth, Oldham, Shropshire


Total: 12 areas, 48 action learning sessions + 3 national events and over 100 people participated per year 


Partnerships are now a dominant feature of the local landscape, from the modernisation of public services through to the empowerment of local communities. As health/care commissioning and procurement at a local level increasingly becomes a cross-agency, cross sector exercise, the need to deliver tangible outcomes and action through partnership also increases.


However, despite the rhetoric, policy assumptions about people being willing and able to work collaboratively are not always matched by the reality on the ground. For many practitioners, cross sector or integrated working can be frustrating and time-consuming: ‘just another toothless talking shop’ is a regular refrain.


However, it is now critical that local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector find ways to work collectively to address complex challenges which cut across agencies, departments and sectors. Moving away from acute, emergency services into prevention routes – such as integrated, community-based provision – is a priority, for both residents and commissioners. However, health and social care services are often fragmented, difficult to access and not based around patients’ (or their carers’) needs. So, for services to be integrated, organisations and care professionals need to bring together all of the different elements of care that a person needs, reducing gaps and inefficiencies.


Our approach to supporting cross sector partnership working in health provides the capacity and focus to engage openly and thoroughly with both the challenges and the opportunities of this new way of working. We bring providers and commissioners together in a neutral space, helping them to build relationships, share resources and achieve meaningful outcomes together. Through the programmes so far we have seen examples of new investment, systems change and increased social value.


What are the benefits?


  • Establish cross sector relationships, working together to overcome obstacles
  • Senior level appreciation and commitment to the VCSE offer
  • VCSEs become strategic partners with public agencies
  • Creates readiness for change and challenge – allowing ideas to be turned into action
  • A common language for talking about improvements to health and well-being
  • Co-designed, integrated, asset-based approaches that provide local solutions
  • Meets the health and well-being needs of local people more effectively

What factors make it work?


  • Timing: The importance of seeing change as a process, rather than an event, allowing relationships to be built and ideas to be turned into action
  • Commitment and buy-in: Senior level, cross sector, diverse involvement
  • Bespoke and independent facilitation: A high level of support and access to experts and resources
  • Dual focus: On relationship building as well as joint action
  • Not rushing into action: Participants are grappling with complex, emerging structures and unfamiliar opportunities: for new, joint initiatives to have a chance of being useful and effective, the foundations (relationships, common ground, mutual understanding) will need to be in place

What do the programmes look like in practice?

Each area receives bespoke, facilitated support, with up to 30 senior leaders from the CCG, local authority and VCSE taking part. Core sessions include:


  • Diagnostic session to create a shared understanding of the national and local health policy context
  • An expert seminar to tackle local needs and build knowledge specific to the local area
  • Implementation sessions to embed learning and review and adjust delivery of action plans

1. Local research

Work goes on behind the scenes to orchestrate impact through one-to-one meetings, telephone calls, information and idea-sharing

2. Senior buy-in

Scoping and scene setting with key individuals and establishment of a ‘core’ group to plan and shape the programme

3. Action learning

An invited group of people come together several times over a fixed period of time to share learning, develop ideas and plan practical solutions (6-12 months)

4. Delivery

Collective action and change during and between facilitated sessions, with results shared, challenged and improved

5. Sharing

Identification of innovation and practical outcomes for learning and replication at local and national level


We definitely got in shape quicker and made more progress in a short space of time because of the programme.”


Sally Polanski, Community Works


What are the challenges?


  • Too many competing drivers and outcome frameworks for cross sector working e.g inconsistent approaches to integration and silo working
  • The voluntary sector is diverse: there are community links to tap into and expertise, but little capacity to engage and a high risk of duplication and overlap
  • A lack of opportunity to stand back, reflect and explore possibilities to tackle the difficult issues that block progress

Case studies

Learn more about IVAR