Later this week, the government is expected to release its ten-year plan for the NHS. Although bearing in mind the political upheavals we witnessed last week, it’s touch and go as to whether this will or will not happen.
What’s clearer, though, is that the long-term plan for the NHS is likely to continue down the path of promoting new models of care, Integrated Care Systems and closer provider relationships.
If I’ve lost you there, apologies. Another wish that many might have for the NHS in the new year is that it stops chopping and changing the language of health. Over the last five years, we’ve had New Models of Care, Accountable Care Organisations (and Partnerships), Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (and Plans) and, now, Integrated Care Systems.
Behind the terminology, though, there are signs that the NHS is moving away from a myriad of poorly integrated service providers towards a system that is integrated and incentivised to support people to live longer, more independent lives, in community settings.
The focus of the long-term plan will be on health and care in communities, and in getting people out (and staying out) of hospitals.
Consequently, the role of housing associations as community-based partners of health has never been more critical, whether facilitating out of hospital care, early discharge or social prescribing initiatives.
Housing associations don’t only have a role as place-based partners to offer health. They also have a potentially huge role in helping the NHS with its future workforce challenge through, for example, employment training schemes for residents that will help the NHS fill the job vacuum that it anticipates will be created by Brexit.
Housing associations can also play a role with health providers in building housing expertise. New roles could be created to focus on a patient’s housing requirements, because of the growing recognition within the health service about the part housing plays in promoting health and wellbeing.
More than ever, housing associations need to be getting into conversations with potential partners in health at an early stage, demonstrating and explaining the range of services and initiatives that they can bring to the table.
Many, however, continue to struggle to understand what the NHS wants, how it works and how the money flows.
They don’t understand how the reforms will change the NHS, what an Integrated Care System will look like, and how they can get money out of the health service and into the community.
To facilitate this, we’re running a six-month long Integrated Care Systems and Housing development programme for a limited number of housing associations that will help them understand the new landscape, build their credibility and explore how they can engage with the NHS as core place-based partners in local communities.
Using our expertise and access to knowledge of local NHS Trusts, we’ll be able to help participants to define and articulate their offer to the local health system. This isn’t just for housing associations that already have health projects; it’s also for those with community-based services and services for older people. It could also be for those housing support providers who know they want to do more.
For those housing providers who want to get under the skin of the NHS, we’re also running a half day masterclass that will help you understand its complexities, and where you can have the most influence.
Whether or not the ten-year plan is published this week or next year, 2019 will see new opportunities for housing associations to work with health partners in communities across the UK. Facilitating more housing and health partnerships is certainly going to be one of our resolutions for 2019!