Leadership for Personalised Care Case Study: Sam, Voluntary Sector Organisation Manager

Background and Context

Sam (pseudonym) is a manager in a not-for-profit organisation. Their local community has high levels of deprivation and experiences stark inequalities in terms of health and social care outcomes. Voluntary sector organisations play a core role in engaging with the community to tackle these challenges, with around 80 per cent of voluntary sector organisations directly involved in health and social care activities. Sam feels that organisations delivering health and social care in the local community can be ‘siloed’ and have a ‘scattergun approach’ to delivering services. They were motivated to participate in the Leadership for Personalised Care regional programme in 2021 to gain support in leading a ‘strategic’ approach to personalisation, bringing together voluntary and public sector organisations in the Integrated Care System to deliver personalised health and social care.

‘Evidence indicates that if this integrated care system is going to work, then the players have to understand each other's operating systems, jargon, drivers, restrictions and so on.’

In the past, there has been tension between the voluntary and public sectors, with some voluntary sector organisations seeing themselves as ‘filling the gap’ of insufficient public sector services. Sam knew that this negative narrative had to shift to enable effective collaboration across the system. They believed that the programme would support them to address these challenges and inspire partnership working.

‘It's very much about “we're doing what you don't do, we're filling the gaps because you don't do it.” So it's quite a negative. And so, one of the other things that I saw that needed to happen was that we needed to change that narrative, that the voluntary sector had got to see itself as an essential part of the system of providing health and wellbeing support services to the community.’

Programme impact

Sam was the only person from their community to attend the programme. It helped them to understand the ‘direction of travel’ for leading personalised care, particularly by developing their understanding of what is expected of leaders at all levels of the Integrated Care System. This knowledge was crucial for Sam to formulate a strategy to bring together the voluntary and public sectors to collaborate and coproduce. 

‘It helped me to formulate in my mind what we're going to need to do with the voluntary sector to bring them in line with this, so that collaboration can take place. Because if you've got people in the room who need each other in this system but still don't understand each other's language, or respect each other's differences, then then we never going to have coproduction.’

The principles of personalised care and other knowledge gained from the programme feed into ‘everything’ Sam does, using their increased knowledge to ready the system for personalisation.

‘So what I'm doing is I'm drip feeding information into everything I do that is based upon the principles of the leadership programme.’

Personalisation journey

The journey towards personalisation began before Sam participated in the programme. Back in 2019, some ‘transformational’ projects were developed in the voluntary sector, including an initiative where community-based members of the public are trained to use their life experience, understanding and position of influence to help people in their community lead healthier lives. Sam facilitates quarterly meetings for these volunteers, where they provide the voice of the communities they serve about the health inequalities that they experience. Sam sees these strategic meetings as an opportunity to build the foundations for personalisation by starting a dialogue and educating the wider system about the activities happening in the community. Sam hopes that by coproducing, they will build trust in the voluntary sector, shift mindsets in the wider system and highlight the need for cross-system working to deliver personalised services.

‘We start to gain confidence in each other. We start to trust each other. We start to open the doorway to a dialogue that's not just dependent upon “what's in it for me”.’

While at an early stage of the personalisation journey, Sam sees themself as a driver for change and is vocal about the need to get ‘different parts of the system on board’. As well as continuing to ‘bang on’ about personalisation at a strategic level, Sam is developing ways to support collaboration in the system. One idea is a strategic buddying programme, where people are assigned a ‘professional friend’ from other sectors to reduce barriers to collaboration. The buddies would support each other, for example, to navigate technical jargon or understand statutory requirements, to break down boundaries between sectors.

‘So, if somebody got asked to read a document, if somebody is a Professional friend, we can support each other because we need to. I need to be able to ask stupid questions and I'm not going ask them in an open forum’.

The future

Having been the only person to participate in the programme, trying to influence change and prepare the system has been challenging. Sam hopes the agenda will gain better traction as more people from their local community attend future programmes. In the meantime, Sam will continue to prepare the groundwork in the local community to drive forward the personalisation agenda.