Back to the future: part 3

By Andrew van Doorn - on 04/07/2018

Another opportunity for closer collaboration between housing associations and the NHS is in new models and pathways of care.

Delayed transfers of care are one of the key issues facing hospitals: known more commonly as bed blocking, they result in patients being stuck in hospital because there is nowhere else for them to go. Housing associations are skilled in both asset development and management, which means they are well placed to increase the supply of high quality step-down housing, whether temporary or long-term.

In addition, housing associations can not only provide step-down housing, they can also deliver, for example, discharge services for people tailored for specific vulnerable groups, or for older people. Discharge services can include, for example, advice on tenancy sustainment, signposting to local health or community services, as well as other specialist support services.

Housing-based solutions have proved to be more cost efficient for the NHS, often delivered at a third of the price of equivalent in-patient care. Consequently, NHS England is beginning to see the financial value of working with housing providers, as well as the value for money their services provide. It has incorporated housing into new pilots for new community forensic services, as well as involving housing in order to address the high costs of out-of-area placements in mental health.

Another partnership HACT has helped the sector to develop – and which we’ll be celebrating and discussing at a roundtable on sport and housing in July –  is how housing can help to build resilience and wellbeing through community initiatives. Housing associations have run numerous partnerships with community and specialist organisations, corporate supporters, and funding trusts, delivering programmes around healthy eating, sports and physical activity, mental wellbeing, and health promotion.

Indeed, every year, housing associations invest around £750million in communities: aligning this investment with NHS and public health priorities could have significant long-term benefits, not only on health and wellbeing, but also on future NHS spending. The trick is in ensuring that people within the health sector get to hear about what you’re doing: this means investing in your communications capacity.

Like the NHS, housing associations are working with more vulnerable people, and with more people over the age of 50. As well as providing specialist support, they are investing in social prescribing, mental health support and programmes that identify and tackle the growing crisis of isolation.

With their unique relationships with their residents, and their reach into local communities, housing associations are ideally placed to support the NHS to develop, model and test new pathways of care. Demonstrating the value of those pathways, and how to broker that relationship, will be the focus for the fourth and final part of this blog series. 

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