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17 July 2014

Welsh housing associations doing the right thing at the right time

Welsh housing associations are becoming the life-blood of communities by providing partnership services which are helping to create a sustainable and innovative NHS in Wales, a conference will hear today.

The Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time – Health, Housing and Social Care Conference will be held today (July 17) at Cardiff City Stadium. The conference is held in partnership with Community Housing Cymru, Care & Repair Cymru and the Welsh NHS Confederation.

Speaking ahead of the conference, CHC’s Chief Executive Nick Bennett said: “Housing associations work closely with tenants and communities to build meaningful relationships – we are playing a central role in engaging communities in the debate around healthcare.”

The conference, chaired by Helen Birtwhistle (Director of The Welsh NHS Confederation) will focus on the debate around Prudent Healthcare as highlighted by Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford, at the Welsh NHS Confederation Annual Conference in January.

Professor Drakeford will be among speakers at today’s event along with CHC’s Chief Executive Nick Bennett, Director General and Chief Executive of NHS Wales Dr Andrew Goodall, and Professor Sir Mansel Aylward of Public Health Wales.

Welsh Government Health Minister Mark Drakeford said: “One of the key principles of prudent healthcare is co-production, which aims to re-balance the system and create a real partnership between professionals and managers and citizens and service users.

“Through the long-established tenant participation movement, housing and domiciliary care and support providers are at the cutting edge of co-production practices.

“The Community Housing Mutual Model, designed in Wales, is a good example of how people are being put at the heart of the design and management of their homes.”

Today’s conference will highlight prudent healthcare – an approach that the Welsh Government Health Minister believes the Welsh NHS must adapt to provide a more sustainable, high quality service which redefines how people interact with the health service and allows them to take ownership of their own health behaviours. This means that everyone accepts responsibility for their own health and a responsibility for managing demand on the NHS.

To tie in with this theme, today’s conference will also see the launch of a discussion document, a collaboration between CHC and the Welsh NHS Confederation, created as part of their “From Rhetoric to Reality” series.

The series, entitled “Partnerships to deliver the NHS required now and in the future”, highlights best practice and suggests areas for future collaboration between health services and housing associations.

One of the key findings from the paper concludes that without consistent, meaningful links with housing associations, as a nation, we will not realise our shared vision of a sustainable, innovative NHS in Wales. Other key issues for debate include the delayed transfer of care, the impact of prudent healthcare on the public and the current safety and overburdening demand on the NHS.

Speaking before the conference, Chief Executive of CHC Nick Bennett added: “We know that prevention is key to ensuring a sustainable NHS and housing associations are well placed to work with people in improving health behaviours through education and information.

“We must support and embrace prudent healthcare fully. The sector’s approach in working with tenants continues to be prudent – money advice, digital inclusion, tenancy management etc., and we need to ensure that this embodies how we make links across organisations to ‘do the right thing, at the right time’ for people.

“As Professor Mark Drakeford recently highlighted, at the heart of prudent healthcare ‘is the idea that by working collectively - as the NHS and as individual patients - we are best placed to make improvements to the health of Wales… and without that collective effort of public service there would be no prospect of improvement, especially in the face of ongoing austerity.

“Housing associations have and will continue to be a key partner to co-locate community services, such as pharmacies, GP surgeries and clinics and we must make the most of opportunities to develop and build.”

Helen Birtwhistle, Director of The Welsh NHS Confederation said: “We know there is an important link between housing and health and therefore partnerships between the two sectors are vital to reducing pressure on a range of services within NHS Wales.

“More importantly, collaborative working can lead to positive outcomes for people and help deliver person-centred care which addresses each individual’s needs.

“Our recent discussion paper, from Rhetoric to Reality – the NHS in Wales in 10 years’ time, outlined the challenges that face the NHS in Wales, including funding, public engagement and integration.

“Partnerships between NHS Wales and the housing sector can help to address some of these challenges while improving the quality and timeliness of services. The opportunities for working together are there and we must grab them if we are to continue to drive up standards of care, especially as the impact of austerity is felt across all public services.

“We know that there are a number of areas where collaborative working is taking place and the benefits are already being realised. But we need to move to a situation where this is common practice across Wales.”

The conference will also hear more about how housing associations have a massive role to play in reducing pressure on health services, driving quality in a safe, sustainable way and how their meaningful relationships with tenants can be built on.

Examples of improving outcomes for people and for the NHS are detailed within the discussion document and include a case study on the “In One Place” project which is projected to demonstrate an £80k saving per person, requiring continuing NHS Healthcare by serving people’s accommodation and care needs at an early stage.

Taff Housing’s Lighthouse project demonstrates how housing professionals working within hospital discharge teams can reduce instances of delayed transfer of care.

First Choice Housing has also been working with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board on the “Closer to Home” Project to reduce the number of institutional placements of people with a learning disability who have challenging behaviour – a project which saves the health board £221k per person annually.