Bulletin no. 1 12 April 2013

Ways to Wellness – a new approach to long term conditions in Newcastle

“Welcome to the first Bulletin for the Ways to Wellness Project. We are committed to sharing as much of the journey with people as we can, and this monthly Bulletin will cover the highlights, challenges and general progress of the Project as we move forwards.

We have received quite a lot of interest in the Ways to Wellness Project, ranging from small local VCS organisations to national government bodies. In order to spend as much time as possible developing the Project (as opposed to writing about it!) we plan to send out just one general Bulletin each month, and would be keen to hear from you as to whether or not we have captured enough of the key points to be of interest to all readers.

The Bulletin assumes that readers are already familiar with the basic overview of the Project which can be found at http://www.vonne.org.uk/policy/socialimpactbonds/ways_to_wellness_faq.php?flink=896

Sandra King – Project Director, on behalf of the Ways to Wellness Steering Group.

Where are now?

The timeline below is by no means an exhaustive list of actions, but aims to give an indication of where we are in the process. We are currently focussing on refining the operational and financial model, and are booking in a series of “critical friends” sessions with key stakeholders to help us with this. We estimate that we are almost a year away from a fully functioning operational model.

Highlights of the month

  • Guy Pilkington, Chair of Newcastle West CCG joins Project Steering Group -additionally, Guy is facilitating a meeting with senior CCG staff for us to work through the contracting and financial elements of the Ways to Wellness model with them to check out pinch points. He also helped to set up one of our “critical friends” sessions with GPs, practice managers and practice nurses to help us to refine the operational model.
  • Attended Nesta Transition Event – there has been a one year social prescribing project in the West End of Newcastle, “People Powered Health” funded by Nesta. The Project Director and 3 Steering Group members attended and it was really useful to see lessons learned and areas we need to pick up on. There was enthusiasm in the room from people who really see the benefits of social prescribing to improve the health of local people, and who want to drive it forwards.
  • Messages of support and interest received from many people - when we announced that we had secured the Development Funding from SEIF.
  • Unsolicited approaches from a potential funder and potential investor – who had heard about our work and may be interested in supporting it.
  • Interest in the Project and offer of support from the Cabinet Office.

On-going development work since 12 March

  • Refining the financial and operational model – we are setting up a series of “critical friends” sessions with small groups of stakeholders, to help us to refine and improve our draft financial and operation models.
  • Contact potential independent “sense checkers” – we have made initial contact with a couple of financial and social finance organisations as we think that having external “sense checkers” will not only help us to think through our model, but could add credibility and so strengthen the pitch to potential investors.
  • Attend “Commissioning Social Impact Bonds” event in London – one of our Steering Group members attended this event (hosted by Big Lottery Fund, Nesta, the Local Government Association, and the Office for Civil Society). This is one of a number of ways that we are keeping up with progress of other SIBS nationally, and trying to share ideas and information.
  • Research Management Information Systems – looking at a number of local and national Management Information Systems that are used by charities to track patient/client progress and feedback to commissioners.
  • Produce Communications Strategy – finalised the strategy and implementing actions including FAQ pages on VONNE website. Prioritising communications with key people in the CCG and trying to communicate effectively with all interested parties in local VCS, including meeting with Chief Executive of Newcastle CVS and submitting an article for their e-newsletter.

Challenges this month

  • Managing Expectations - lots of people are interested in the project, which is great, but having to be clear that the funding we have at this stage is to develop a social finance model, NOT to deliver social prescribing interventions.
  • Tracking patient costs – how can we demonstrate cost savings to the NHS if we can’t track individual patient costs? Anyone outside the NHS might think this would be easy, anyone inside will know it is a nightmare! We had an offer of support from Cabinet Office Social Impact Bond team, so gave them the challenge of finding an example of people easily tracking these costs, but they haven’t had any more luck than we did. We have heard of a locally developed NHS IT system called RADR, and are in the process of setting up a meeting to find out more about it and to see if that can help us.
  • Who are the target group? - in general terms, we know our target group is people with long term conditions(LTCs) in the West of Newcastle. However, to evidence that this type of social prescribing benefits patients and can release the anticipated cost savings to the NHS we are working on the detail of exactly which patients, with which LTCs, we might focus on in order to best demonstrate that that this social finance model can work.
  • Does it work? – Which evidence do we point to when a GP or social investor asks us “Does it work?” There are numerous studies on how social prescribing can increase patient health, a great thing in itself, however, most of these studies have been small scale (a few hundred patients) and so it has been difficult to demonstrate cost savings, which will be more evident when working at a larger scale (economies of scale) and over a longer time frame. We need to do more work to collate this evidence and present it in a useful format to both potential investors and potential social prescribers (i.e. the GPs and practice nurses).

Sandra King, Ways to Wellness Project Director