The Vital Role of VCSE Partnerships in the NHS


Discover the vital role of VCSE partnerships in the NHS, focusing on enhancing patient experience and improving access to services. Explore the importance of embedding VCSE participation in ICS governance, leveraging their expertise, addressing challenges, and seizing opportunities. Discover the core requirements for successful partnerships and the impact of VCSE collaboration on healthcare outcomes.

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VCSE partnerships play a crucial role within the NHS, contributing to the development, improvement, and delivery of healthcare services. This article explores the importance of VCSE partnerships in the NHS, with a focus on enhancing patient experience and improving access to services. By fostering collaboration between the NHS and the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sector, we can drive holistic and patient-centered care. This article highlights key principles, statistics, and case studies to underscore the significance of VCSE partnerships in achieving these goals.

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VCSE Partnership in ICS Governance

In order to fully leverage the potential of the VCSE sector, it is crucial to embed their participation within Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). This includes involvement in governance structures, population health management, service redesign, and workforce development plans. By engaging with the VCSE sector, ICSs can benefit from the sector’s diverse perspectives and expertise. Recent years have seen ICSs establish formal agreements with the VCSE sector and it is these agreements in which Hanley Consulting will now look to leverage in order to support the integrated care models of Primary Care and further increase capacity and optimisation of services.

Recent studies show VCSE organisations have made significant contributions to shaping and delivering services, as well as addressing the wider determinants of health. By integrating VCSE partnership at the system level, ICSs can ensure a comprehensive and patient-centric approach to healthcare delivery. It is evident that such collaboration leads to improved patient outcomes, reduced health inequalities, and more effective use of resources. 


Enhancing Health and Care through VCSE Expertise

The VCSE sector brings valuable expertise and unique perspectives to public service delivery, making it particularly well-suited to supporting individuals with complex and multiple needs. Historically, VCSE organisations have been instrumental in engaging marginalised populations, addressing the inverse care law, and promoting health equity. Through early action, preventative services, and a focus on social value, the sector offers cost-effective solutions that positively impact patient health and wellbeing.

Studies have shown that VCSE partnerships can lead to faster and more joined-up mental healthcare, better prevention and treatment of eye care problems, improved vaccination uptake among homeless individuals, and enhanced support for carers. These achievements underscore the significance of VCSE organisations in bridging gaps, providing specialised care, and offering innovative solutions that complement mainstream healthcare services.

Addressing Challenges and Seizing Opportunities

While engaging with the diverse VCSE sector presents challenges, ICSs have made strides in establishing effective partnerships. Many ICSs have developed alliances to engage the sector, leveraging existing structures such as health and wellbeing boards and local VCSE infrastructure organisations. However, financial constraints and limited resources remain significant hurdles for VCSE organisations. It is crucial for ICSs to ensure equitable resourcing and support, respecting the time and efforts of VCSE partners.

Core Requirements for Successful Partnerships

To build effective VCSE partnerships, ICSs should establish formal agreements that define engagement and embed VCSE involvement in decision-making processes. Developing a memorandum of understanding and a set of guiding principles can facilitate collaboration and ensure transparency. Additionally, ICSs should proactively engage VCSE stakeholders relevant to the population groups they serve. This includes fostering relationships with local VCSE organisations, exploring opportunities for data sharing, and commissioning services from VCSE providers.

Supporting VCSE leadership, measuring the impact of partnerships, promoting volunteering, and investing in workforce diversity are vital to sustainable and impactful collaborations. Embracing a consistent approach to social value and promoting the integration of VCSE organisations within system-wide initiatives further strengthens the partnership.


Partnership Models across ICSs

ICSs can adopt alliance models to systematically engage with the VCSE sector. Strategic opportunities can be pursued at the system level, while tailored collaborations can be developed at the place and neighbourhood levels to address local needs. Integrating VCSE organisations into primary care networks, multidisciplinary neighbourhood teams, and provider collaboratives enables seamless care delivery and encourages innovation. Social prescribing and link workers serve as vital connections between healthcare and the community, connecting individuals to local activities, support services, and resources offered by VCSE organisations.

It is these partnerships which Hanley Consulting are now developing further in primary Care. By introducing VCSE integration into Hanley Consulting’s EDATT product, patients are now able to utilise local voluntary and community sector services directly allowing for more direct and specialised care which may be better suited than services offered by local healthcare organisations.


The integration of VCSE partnerships within the NHS is paramount to delivering comprehensive and patient-centred healthcare. By harnessing the knowledge, expertise, and networks of the VCSE sector, ICSs can make significant strides in enhancing patient experience, improving access to services, and addressing health inequalities. Collaborations between the NHS and VCSE organisations pave the way for integrated care systems that prioritise the well-being of individuals and communities. By recognising the value of VCSE partnerships and investing in their sustainability, the NHS can truly deliver on its commitment to holistic and patient-centric care.

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