A healthy dose of community engagement

By Jessica Studdert | 05 July 2022

The NHS has a lot to learn from local government about community engagement.

Now integrated care systems (ICS) have full statutory status, health and social care integration is entering unchartered territory. To date, the focus has been on new structures and governance arrangements, while a third partner in health and wellbeing has been left on the sidelines: the community.

The opportunity of integration is for services to coordinate around the needs of people, and shift the balance of investment away from crisis response and towards preventing illness occurring in the first place. True prevention cannot be ‘done to’ communities, it must be achieved with them by working alongside them.

In this respect, the NHS has much to learn from its local government partners. The sector as a democratic institution is umbilically linked to communities.

The principle of lay representation gives councils strong links to hyper local neighbourhoods through elected members, and transparency throughout proceedings. ICS governance needs to embody this culture and practice of local accountability wholeheartedly.

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