In recent years, collaboration has become more important to the health and care system.
On this page you can find out why this is, look at some of the key considerations for forming a collaboration, and read some examples of the different ways hospices are working together across the country.
Introduction to collaboration
Collaborating with hospices and other palliative care providers can strengthen your position by creating a collective voice and amplifying your message.
Building collaborative networks can:
- strengthen your case
- help you strategise
- give you more capacity through economies of scale and shared resources.
Many hospices are already working together to share resources, expertise and learning, improve purchasing power and amplify their presence in the local system. This might be as part of a formal collaborative network, or as an informal agreement.
Why is collaboration important?
Collaborative working is becoming increasingly important to decision makers across the UK. Policy has shifted away from the ideology of the 1990s, when commissioners of healthcare were separated from providers in a bid to create a competitive market.
Health and care systems are now expected to work more collaboratively to deliver integrated (or ‘joined up’) care to patients and families. At the heart of integrated care is the desire to make the patient journey as smooth as possible, even when care is delivered across multiple organisations.
By working in collaborative networks, you can show commissioners that you are willing and able to become a key part of the integrated care system.
Health and care commissioners usually cover a large geographical area. This means they have a multitude of providers to engage with, and they might not be close to the needs of the communities they serve. They will value the opportunity to work with a collaborative, especially if it is able to manage whole patient pathways or a local population. This makes communication and contracting arrangements far simpler.
Find out more about how the health and care systems are structured and commissioned across the UK.
Who to partner with
Collaborations are usually formed for a key purpose – to improve economies of scale, deliver more integrated care, or to amplify the members’ voices. However, as the collaborative develops, it will often widen in scope and deliver more benefits.
Your main aim for collaborating will inform which partners need to be involved. For example, depending on what you want to achieve, you might collaborate with partners in your local area or more widely.
You need to consider the benefits and risks of joining any collaborative or alliance, and decide what is best for your hospice. For example, partnerships with larger organisations such as hospitals and NHS trusts can be powerful and give you more influence – but there are risks involved with being a significantly smaller partner.
Alliances across voluntary organisations can help raise the profile of the sector as a whole, but things can become complicated because of the variety of providers involved. The voluntary sector spans a vast array of organisations whose mandates range from service provision to umbrella voices.
There are three main types of collaboration:
Several hospices across the UK are collaborating to gain wider influence in their local health system, including securing NHS funding to deliver palliative and end of life care services across a local area.
Providing joined up care at the end of life requires hospices to work in coordination with other local health and care providers. These might be specialist teams at the hospital, NHS community teams, groups of local GP practices or care homes.
To have influence within a large and crowded system, hospices often want to speak as one voice. You could join with local hospices to amplify the voice of the local hospice sector, but this might not be enough.
Within the wider health and social care arena, you might get more influence by forming a broader voluntary sector alliance. Statutory sector bodies such as the NHS tend to prefer to engage with ‘the voluntary sector’ as one entity, especially at the highest levels of decision making.
How to form a collaborative: getting started
Collaborations take time and trust to build. You might start out informally as a group of like-minded CEOs, or work with a group of GP practices around a care home population.
Learning together often promotes working together, so building educational networks and shared training can be a valuable way to start working collaboratively.
For a collaborative to get started, it needs:
- a purpose
- a catalyst
- change makers who drive it forward.
But to make your collaborative successful and sustainable in the long term, you need more than a shared vision.
Governance and risk sharing
No hospice is the same, and voluntary sector organisations span a wide range of service providers, funders, umbrella bodies, community groups and lived experience groups. Each organisation will have a different size, budget, charitable purpose and community legitimacy.
Any structures that represent others or hold funding contracts should be underpinned by robust and transparent governance, finance and risk sharing. This is a key part of building and maintaining trust within your alliance and making sure decision makers feel confident commissioning your services.
Your health and care system should be able to provide support and guidance, particularly for voluntary sector alliances. This includes:
- providing funding for the formation of alliances
- sharing contractual and financial risk with alliances
- establishing inclusive governance, language and decision-making structures
- committing to working with and through alliances that have robust governance and legitimacy.
Once you’ve formed a collaborative network or alliance, you need to plan how you are going to engage with local decision makers. This might include appointing representatives to attend key meetings and forming a business plan.
Read our information about ways to influence local decision makers.