3ST (Third Sector Together) NWL enables voluntary and community sector organisations in North West London to better engage with the Integrated Care System (ICS).
Project and outcomes
3ST NWL is a group of charities that have been working together since 2018, to respond to commissioning changes in the health and care system. It aims to help local organisations engage with and gain recognition in the North West London Integrated Care System (ICS).
Harlington Hospice has had a key role in the development of 3ST, driving it forward as a provider partnership in the ICS.
3ST is now recognised as an equal partner within the ICS and meets regularly with NHS senior officers. This has helped with engagement at all levels of the system. An expectations paper has been drawn up to set out how the partnership will be involved in the system, which includes:
- having at least two spaces on the ICB Board and nine Portfolio Boards
- co-designing relevant development strategies, programmes and projects
- having a named point of contact in all directorates.
New charitable organisations coming into the system are being directed to 3ST – and if they do not wish to join 3ST, they are treated as an ‘external competitor’ when commissioning decisions are being made.
Harlington has benefitted from being a member of 3ST and has grown as a hospice as a result of the recognition and involvement they now have in the system.
Facilitators, challenges and advice
The Integrated Care System (ICS) prefers to engage with one entity, rather than several smaller organisations. This means it has welcomed the development of 3ST.
3ST began as a ‘coalition of the willing’ but was open to all. As it has grown, more people have been keen to join. Within the partnership, organisations are now more supportive of each other and are able to share knowledge and skills to help each other develop.
3ST was included in the NHS England Third Sector Leadership Programme, bringing an month investment to support its development. This funded a consultant who helped develop a structural framework to make sure 3ST is managed effectively and all members are treated fairly. The framework reflects the structure of the NHS and local authorities, which has helped the partnership gain credibility.
- a three tier delivery model to support the development of activity at ‘neighbourhood’, ‘place’ and ‘system’ levels
- the development and formal adoption of a series of joint working principles
- borough-based groups (led by a Borough Leadership Team)
- a Strategy group (with representatives from each borough)
- a Leadership group made up of nine executive leaders who interact with the ICS and are elected by the Strategy group.
3ST is clear that representatives must act in the best interests of the partnership rather than individual organisations.
It has taken time for 3ST to establish itself as a partner in the system. To build a reputation the leadership team have had to be astute and commercially minded, and the partnership has had to deliver quickly. It has also had to be flexible to navigate the changing structures of the NHS.
It can be difficult for third sector organisations to work at pace, but the structure of 3ST has helped streamline processes.
3ST is the only provider partner in the ICS that has to tender for contracts. If any organisations wish to bid independently for funding, this can lead to competition between members. 3ST has made it a requirement for members to declare early on if this is the case.
The alliance has had to work hard to educate people that third sector organisations are service providers as well as advocates and volunteer organisations.
Tips and advice
When you’re trying to get a voice in an organisation with a wider footprint than your own, you have to think differently. Be proactive about getting a seat at the table – don’t wait to be invited or for someone else to make a start. Make sure you know your local system and have live data you can share to show your value.
It can be frustrating if you feel like you’re doing everything right but not making the progress you’d like to – remember that this is a marathon rather than a sprint!
If you’re setting up a coalition, you need to take time to develop trust between organisations - but you also need a framework to give you structure and clarify roles.
3ST’s priorities for the future include developing:
- commercial structures, governance and supply chain management
- communications, marketing and education (for the wider system and the sector)
- membership and reach
- quality holistic services that are good value for money, tackle health inequalities and reduce untimely demand for health and social care
- a genuine partnership between the third and statutory sectors.