More than 80 voluntary and community sector (VCS) representatives from West Yorkshire and Harrogate, including MacMillan, Age UK, Action on Hearing Loss, Carers Leeds, Yorkshire Sports Foundation, Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK, attended the first of a series of partnership events in Bradford on Monday (November 6).

The purpose of the event was to help them find out more about the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (WY&H HCP), also known as the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP).

It was also aimed at strengthening the importance of the VCS, at a time when the sector is under increasing financial pressure, and giving participants the opportunity to find out more and get involved as equal partners within the health and care partnership.

VCS reps were updated on the partnership’s progress to date, and there was a specific focus on how the VCS could get more involved in the partnership’s priority areas of work, including preventing ill health, cancer, mental health, stroke services, urgent emergency care, supporting unpaid carers and community involvement.

VCS organisations already play a significant role across West Yorkshire and Harrogate, and there are many examples of great work taking place from preventing ill health to urgent and emergency care. One such example is Creative Minds, an award winning organisation that uses creative approaches in healthcare to increase people’s self-esteem, while developing their social skills and helping to improve their quality of life.

Another example is in Wakefield, where GPs, health workers and specialist voluntary workers are involved in making sure people in care homes and supported living schemes have their health and social care needs met and are helped to make the most of activities in their local community.

The event was led by Hannah Howe, Director for Forum Central, a VCS organisation which works with Leeds City Council and the NHS to provide a better life for the people of Leeds, and Dr Soo Nevison, Chief Executive of Community Action Bradford and District.

Event participants also heard from Ian Holmes, Director for the health and care partnership, and Rob Webster, Chief Executive of South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust and Lead Chief Executive for the partnership.

“The Health and Care Partnership has already stated that its ambitions will not be achieved without involving VCS colleagues as equal partners in the development of the work”, said Rob.

“Modern health and care services look after the physical, mental and social needs of people. We need to join up services and look at the whole person. We already know the VCS help us to do this some of the time.

“There is a wealth of expertise across West Yorkshire and Harrogate and the VCS are better placed than many to understand what communities need to keep them well and to make positive change happen at all levels”.

Hannah added: “If we are to genuinely work alongside communities as equal partners, we need to change the relationships we have with public sector organisations.

“There is already good leadership from the VCS in the partnership’s work, including Healthwatch, but to make sure our work adds the greatest value possible we need more VCS organisations to be involved. I’m delighted that so many of our VCS colleagues came along today. This is just the start of our journey and I encourage more to get involved”.