Community Power and the NHS

New Local is exploring how community power can protect the future of the NHS.

We are currently researching ahead of a report later this year. If you would like to get in touch with the research team, e-mail callforevidence@newlocal.org.uk.

We all love the NHS, our dearest national institution. But health services as we know them are under threat.

Even before the pandemic hit, the NHS was lurching from winter crisis to crisis, beset by staff shortages and underfunding.

The experience of Covid exposed how fragile our health service is, yet how deeply dedicated the people who work within it are.

The pressures on the NHS are widely recognised. We are living longer, many of us with long-term conditions.

Health inequalities are growing and continue to blunt the life chances of too many. Increasing numbers of people experience so-called ‘lifestyle-related’ poor health such as obesity and diabetes.

Sir Michael Marmot speaking on health inequalities at New Local’s Stronger Things event

These all require ongoing support and a focus on individual health and wellbeing. In the absence of this, too many people fall back on hospitals as a last resort. Unless we address this, costs will continue to spiral.

As we emerge from the greatest health emergency our country has faced in peacetime, can we build back a better health system?

At New Local we believe the time is right to imagine how an approach to health that is rooted in our communities could create a more resilient and sustainable system, with better outcomes for all.

This would recognise the role of hospitals and clinical care to treat ill health when it happens, but as part of a wider system which places the individual at its heart – to prevent problems happening in the first place.

Community power recognises that people themselves are well placed to identify what would help them to thrive.

What is community power? animation

The role of services is to support this, rather than always just decide what’s best on their behalf.

Find out more about community power.

Community power is growing as a force:

  • Increasingly people themselves expect to have more of a say over services they use.
  • Many professionals are using practices which understand that people are the experts in their own situation.
  • And increasingly public services recognise that their interventions are more sustainable if they seek to work with, rather than on behalf of, people.
Dr Jaweeda Idoo on community power in the NHS

Community power is not new in health terms. For decades it has been recognised that people with long-term conditions benefit from participating in peer-support groups.

Recent NHS reforms have considered the role of place in integrating services. But the concept is yet to fully take hold to influence the logic and mindset of the system as a whole.

Dr Mark Spencer has helped revolutionise the health of his Lancashire community – working alongside residents to set up health-improving groups – from singing to fishing.

As a result, A&E admissions have fallen as the community has come together. Read in full.

Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

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