Bulletin no. 8 28 January 2014

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

Welcome to the eighth Bulletin for the Ways to Wellness Project. The Bulletin assumes that readers are already familiar with the Ways to Wellness Project, so if you are not already aware of our work then please refer to the FAQs and the first seven Bulletins, which tell the story so far.

Recent Highlights

Development Grant of £150k from the Big Lottery Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund – we received confirmation of this last week and it is excellent news. It means we can pay for the work we need to do in order to finalise the development of Ways to Wellness and to proceed to being operational. Areas of work that the grant will pay for include procuring the social prescribing providers; finalising the contract metrics and setting up the reporting and management information systems; engaging social investors and also the legal work for the contracting arrangements.

Ways to Wellness Ltd established and recruitment started for Non-executive Directors – Ways to Wellness was established in December as a company limited by shares with two founding directors, Professor Chris Drinkwater (Chair) and Jane Hartley, Chair of VONNE. The recruitment process for further Non-executive Directors has just started. The existing Ways to Wellness Steering Group will continue to meet to oversee the development of the project until all the new Board Directors are in place and a Chief Executive has been appointed. If you would like to receive further information about our non-Executive vacancies, please contact Angela Haig (angela@vonnne.org.uk) for an information pack.

Approaches to potential social investors – to take Ways to Wellness through its start-up phase, and to build our capacity to support 5,000 patients per annum, we have estimated that we need to raise £2.5m - £3m from social investors. A lot of careful thought had to go into preparing our proposal, including the split between types of social investment (social investment loan, risk equity and grant), and whom we should approach. We have started formal approaches to a number of potential investors both locally and nationally which feels like quite a significant milestone in the journey.

Attendance at Long Term Conditions Care Planning Training – I attended this half day session with some of the primary care staff in Newcastle West. They were enthusiastic about Ways to Wellness and could see how it would help their patients with long term conditions and I was asked to get it operational as soon as possible so they can start referring patients! The project is at a stage where a lot of our time is taken up in looking at contracting, procurement processes and metrics measurements (all very important but some may say a bit dry?!) and it was refreshing to be reminded of the end purpose of the work, and the benefits it will have for patients in Newcastle West.

On-going development work since 4 December

Mapping out the procurement process – we have been working on the procurement process and service specification for social prescribing providers, and hope to start the procurement process in February. Although not bound by NHS procurement rules, we want to ensure that the proposed process is fair, open and transparent and we have had input from our legal advisors to check that we are on track with this.

Developing links locally – this included meeting up to share progress with Kathryn Duggan who is working on the Age UK Social Impact Bond in North Tyneside. Also contact with Alice Wiseman, Gateshead Public Health, who was interested in what we are doing with Ways to Wellness as it links to some reshaping of public health approaches that they are undertaking in Gateshead.

Short Case Study produced for Cabinet Office – they are producing an update to a report published last year re opening up opportunities for the Voluntary and Community Sector and wanted to include a case study on Ways to Wellness.

Review of training options for Link Workers – the Ways to Wellness model requires strong input from link workers and getting their training and support right will be critical. We met with potential providers of training and reviewed training options and costs. It is likely that the basic training will be the health trainer qualification, with some of content slanted to our target group, with supplementary training to look specifically at LTCs.

Strengthening links with the Cabinet Office – as one of the first health related social impact bonds likely to come to fruition, there is interest from the Cabinet Office in our progress and we have had a couple of phone calls with Ross Masood in the Social Investment and Finance Team at Cabinet Office. They are interested to see progress and also to see where the potential blocks are and what they may be able to do to help. Recently they have offered us access to a treasury analyst as we work up the contract metrics, which should be helpful.

Recent Challenges

Defining the contract metrics - we had a second meeting in January with key staff at the CCG, and have made real and significant progress around information governance and data transfer issues (things that felt like big stumbling blocks a couple of months ago). We have agreed in principle on two of the three contract metrics and just need to do some more work on the third metric linked to hospital usage. We will be working with NEQOS and also Social Finance to get this right and have also had offers of help from the Cabinet Office as well as a potential Social Investor. This is a new way of working and contracting for the NHS and so not surprisingly this still remains the trickiest part of the work.

Keeping fingers crossed for a month! – although we were given an informal indication from Big Lottery just before Christmas that our application to the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund was being looked on favourably, the final decision on our grant did not come until last week. We had to hold back on several areas of our work, as we could not commit to further cost without the positive decision. Having made so much progress on this project, a negative decision at this stage would have been devastating – not only because we would not have had the development funds we needed, but also because of the vote of no confidence it would have given, which would have impacted negatively on approaches to potential investors. We are confident about the project and had a reasonable level of confidence that we would succeed with the application, but even so, we had our fingers crossed and waited with baited breath!

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

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