Skip to content
  • Delivery

Building a collective vision for integrated care

Direct Referrals Workshop

by Polly Cook

How we're working to connect people with long-term health conditions to third sector organisations for information and support.

Building on the groundwork laid during our roundtable in September 2023, over the last few months we’ve been bringing together a group of leading healthcare charities. Our goal? To explore how we can create a systematic and scalable way for healthcare professionals to refer people diagnosed with long-term health conditions to the wealth of support available through third-sector organisations.

The now regularly convening collective has broadened to encompass even more charities. The work has gained considerable momentum, the members are bringing a wealth of passion, experience and knowledge and we are truly excited about the change we are going to make, together. 

What we’re trying to solve 

It’s undeniable that the third sector plays an increasingly crucial role in delivering healthcare services to people living with long term conditions. Whether it’s through specialist nurses, advisors, peer support, high quality information or self management support, there is guidance available for almost anyone diagnosed with any condition. Amidst a rising demand and increasingly complex cases being handled by the NHS, the imperative for the third sector to be considered a part of the system, as opposed to an afterthought, is critical. 

And yet, how patients are referred into that support is inconsistent, unpredictable and unreliable. Whilst there is growing evidence that patient outcomes are improved with the right information and support at the point of diagnosis, in many cases, it isn’t prioritised. People being diagnosed walk away not knowing the wealth of personalised support they are entitled to. 

An ambitious project for change

This collective wants to create a world where healthcare professionals seamlessly integrate the support they offer into patient care, where patients are empowered to choose when to engage with available resources, and where bias is eliminated through systematic referrals.

However, we recognise that with great ambition comes great responsibility. In this work, we also need to answer crucial questions like how we can ensure and create parity across different conditions, navigate support for individuals with multiple health concerns, and establish effective referral feedback mechanisms. Moreover, the need to showcase the impact of charity services is vital - there is much work to be done. 

Throughout a series of workshops, we have mapped out the stakeholders essential to turning their vision into reality, recognising the need to strengthen connections with primary care leadership, policy influencers, and marginalised community leaders. By encouraging cross-sector collaboration and aligning strategies, we can make as big an impact as possible on a national scale.

We recently conducted a workshop on ‘the power of influence,’ looking into the essential role that advocacy and political engagement can play. The group shared examples of successful cross sector influencing and what made it great. Hugely inspiring examples were shared, including the British Sign Language Act, the We Are Undefeatable campaign, the vaccine response taskforce, and many more. We drew out key themes around what made them so successful, such as using collective data, playing to each organisation’s strengths, amplifying smaller charities and ensuring people with lived experience were central. We also started to work through what our ‘offer’ and ‘ask’ might be to any future government. 

Building for the future

Looking ahead, we have agreed on a high level roadmap which includes a discovery phase to test our assumptions, carry out research and ultimately understand more about what a direct referral could look like at scale. From consolidating learnings from existing projects to prototyping service design patterns, it is brimming with possibilities to create real, systemic change. 

Throughout this and previous workshops, one thing becomes abundantly clear: by bridging the gap between NHS healthcare and charities, we can empower individuals, enrich communities, and redefine what it means to journey through long-term health challenges. Together, we're not just imagining a better future—we're building it, one collaboration at a time.

We want to thank all the people and charities involved in this project and leading this change: Julie Wilson-Dodd, Breast Cancer Now, Blood Cancer UK, Diabetes UK, MND Association, Pancreatic Cancer UK, MS Society, RNID, Stroke Association and Prostate Cancer UK.  

Polly Cook's avatar

Polly Cook

Senior Partner - Not for Profit

Contact Polly

Our recent insights

Transformation is for everyone. We love sharing our thoughts, approaches, learning and research all gained from the work we do.

Agile Mindsets

Building agile mindsets in organisations

How to create a culture where agile working is at the heart of your projects.

Building a sustainable future for people and places

Rachel Fisher, Deputy Director for Land Use Policy at Defra, speaks to us about her role and all things place and infrastructure.

A comprehensive guide to agile project management

Our guide to the transformative power of agile project management and how adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement drive success.