Essential commissioning guidance launched on working with local communities

Published on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 16:13
Written by Vicki Mitchem

New guidance for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) on how to work within communities rather than imposing top-down decisions is launched today by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Working with Communities, Developing Communities is the latest resource produced by the RCGP Centre for Commissioning, set up in 2010 to support GPs with the commissioning and delivery of healthcare and services.  The publication coincides with the introduction of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across England on 1 April.

The guide puts forward both a financial case and health case as to why investing resources in Community Development is beneficial for local populations, primary care practitioners and CCGs.

It emphasises that local populations must be seen as assets, not burdens, in order to make CCGs strong and successful. It also focuses on the need for CCGs to work together and build partnerships within their communities between health, education, housing and other services including policing.

Community Development comes in many forms but all focus on maximising the potential of local individuals and community groups in shaping how public services develop, creating opportunities and solving problems. It uses two main case studies to illustrate these along with numerous other examples, including Time Banks which use participants' time and skills as currency instead of money.

Community Development professionals will work with residents to identify key, local issues and set agendas important to local people. Local authorities and public service organisations, such as NHS groups, will be involved in making decisions but fundamentally this should be an inclusive process.

Health benefits from effective Community Development include:

improved social integration which evidence has shown to increase resilience against physical and mental health problems; promoting social networking which has been shown to tackle health inequalities and promoting wider societal benefits; and sustainability in terms of the impact on health services, employment opportunities, education, housing and policing.

Financial rewards associated include those seen by the Health Empowerment Leverage Project (HELP) in Devon- one of the principle case studies in the report.  It saw an NHS saving of £558,714 over 3 years and estimated annual wider societal savings across England of £130 million. HELP focuses on building links between local populations and frontline services.

Another example is the Healthy Communities Collaborative which targeted reducing falls in older people and saw a saving of £1.2 million in hospital costs, £2.75 million in residential care costs and £120,000 in ambulance costs over three years.

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the RCGP said: "We need to engage with the people we have been commissioned to serve. The people within the community should have their say in what they think will make their society, their lives, better; be it health or education or housing. They should have a role in making these things happen. As leaders, we need to listen to them and develop lasting relationships between services, concentrating on the things that our local populations really want and need.

"We must trust our communities to work proactively with us for the greater good of society, inclusive of healthcare as well as other essential services. We need to believe that people want to look after themselves and work towards a better, healthier, life for themselves, their families and their communities."

Dr David Paynton, National Clinical Lead for the RCGP Centre for Commissioning said: "Community Development promotes simple ideas that produce multi-faceted benefits to everyone involved. CCGs must be strong and deliver sustainable outcomes in order to be successful and to do this we must utilise our most important resource- our communities- not  fritter away another important resource -money- by outsourcing to contractors and paying inflated and unnecessary prices.

"This guidance gives an excellent overview of how primary care practitioners can work with- not against- their local population."

Source: RCGP

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