Strengthening Connections in Bolton

It’s the beginning of a New Year, the new long term NHS plan has just been published and partners in Bolton are focusing on what the Integrated Care Partnership will look like.  So it seems a good time to share my reflections on the last few months working on secondment at the NHS Bolton Foundation Trust.    It all started in a discussion earlier in the year between the Trust and Bolton CVS about strengthening the Trust’s connections with The Community and Voluntary Sector and how we could go about this.  From this a two –day per week secondment from Bolton CVS for a year was agreed to work within The Integrated Community Services Division.  The main tasks being to see where things stood at the moment, identify gaps and find ways to strengthen connections. 

And it’s been an interesting few months so far……

I have worked in the voluntary and community sector for most of my career and with Bolton CVS for 10 years, so this was a big culture change for me and something of stepping into the unknown.  Which is much like many of the staff at the Trust feel about the voluntary sector – they know it is there, think it could be of real benefit for their patients but don’t really know what support actually exists within Bolton and how to find out more.    There is also probably some uncertainty about trying a different way of doing things – and I could definitely relate to that feeling stepping into Waters Meeting Health Centre the first week.  However, I was made to feel very welcome and a cup of coffee and a hobnob go a long way to help you settle in.

Having a visible presence at meetings and in the office and talking to members of staff at all levels, informally, and through training and awareness raising, has enabled the community and voluntary sector to have an increased profile within the Trust.  It has also enabled me to gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that the Trust is faced with that I can then share with the community and voluntary sector.  I think and hope that more teams now know that there are over 1,500 community and voluntary sector groups within Bolton.  They should do as I haven’t stopped saying it.  Every day these groups support our diverse communities in so many different ways to improve their health and well-being.   And so the work begins, I have completed a VCSE staff survey and focus groups, delivered awareness raising and supported the input of the voluntary sector into a number of service redesigns.  With neighbourhood models currently being developed there are more opportunities to involve the community and voluntary sector further.

Better connections and partnership working is based on positive relationships and I think the secondment role is an effective way of starting this.  I look forward to keeping you posted in the coming months and hopefully working with some of you to strengthen connections further.

For me, and for the partners I represent, I can see that there is great opportunity to work more closely, recognise and understand different perspectives and challenges and develop ways of doing things that improve the experience of the person who should be, and is at the heart of all that we do.

Louise McDade - Voluntary Services Development Lead