For nearly a year now, I've been a member of the 'shadow' Manchester Health and Wellbeing Board, representing the voluntary and community sector. This is a new body which was formed under the new NHS and Social Care Act which introduces the Coalition Government's changes to the way health and social care services are structured across England. There must be one Board in each Local Authority area. The Department of Health defines the role of the Health and Wellbeing Board as follows:
- strengthen democratic legitimacy by involving democratically elected representatives and patient representatives in commissioning decisions alongside commissioners across health and social care.
- provide a forum for challenge, discussion, and the involvement of local people.
- bring together clinical commissioning groups and councils to develop a shared understanding of the health and wellbeing needs of the community: Joint Strategic Needs Assessment
- Recommendations for joint commissioning and integrating services across health and care: Health & Wellbeing Strategy - local commissioning of health care, social care and public health and creates a more effective and responsive local health and care system.
- Other services that impact on health and wellbeing such as housing and education provision will also be addressed.
(Further information at: http://healthandcare.dh.gov.uk/hwb-guide/ )
I think it's interesting that the emphasis in that list is on involving local people in making decisions. When it is set up the Manchester Healthwacth will have a place on the Board - this is written into the new law. In other parts of the country there is no separate place for the voluntary and community sector. I have to applaud Manchester for understanding that there is a crucial distinction between the role of the voluntary and community sector and the voice of local people. The Board is Chaired by Sir Richard Leese, Leader of the City Council and again, I think this is a positive step as it brings a lot more authority to the Board than previous partnership structures have had.
The Board has now set its priorities
- Getting the youngest people in our communities off to the best start
- Educating, informing and involving the communityin improving their own health and wellbeing
- Moving more health provision into the community
- Providing the best treatment we can to people inthe right place and at the right time
- Turning round the lives of troubled families
- Improving people’s mental health and wellbeing
- Bringing people into employment and leading productive lives
- Enabling older people to keep well and live independently in their community
Hard to disagree with them isn't it? These are now being looked at in more detail to create a Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Manchester - a draft is being considered at the November 2012 meeting of the Board.
For me, the main challenge for the Board is in building new ways of the hospital trusts, GPs, social care services, public health and the voluntary and community sector in working together. With pressures on budgets such as we've never seen before, only a new more collaborative attitude is going to work. It's early days, but time is ticking.
The Board meets roughly every 6-8 weeks at present and all the papers are available on the City Council's website a week prior to the meeting: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/meetings/committee/77/health_and_wellbeing_board
In future I'll be providing my thoughts and feedback from meetings via this blog. I also give feedback at meetings of Macc's Health and Wellbeing Forum which is intended as a space where local voluntary and community sector groups working in this field can get together to collaborate, share views and tell me what they want me to say when I attend Board meetings. If you're interested in coming to Forum meetings, please contact Mary Duncan at Macc on 0161 834 9823 or email firstname.lastname@example.org