In conversation: The intrinsic link between our health and our wealth

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By Dave Sweeney, Executive Director of Partnerships for the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership

I was delighted to be asked to take part in the first of two webinars from NHS Confederation and NHS England and NHS Improvement – ‘In Conversation: Creating the Vision for an Inclusive Economy’.

This is a subject matter that is incredibly close to my heart and I was sitting (albeit virtually) amongst exceptionally good company on the panel, which was chaired by Richard Stubbs, Chief Executive of Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network and made up of:

  • Alan Yates, Chair of the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership
  • Catherine McClennan, Programme Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership
  • Mark Swift, Chief Executive of Wellbeing Enterprises CIC
  • Alan Higgins, Head of the Wealth and Wellbeing Programme at Public Health England North West

We had an hour of incredibly insightful, rich and meaningful conversation, something that we sometimes don’t always have the chance to do but should definitely be doing more often. I am of the firm belief that our health and the economy are intrinsically linked, especially when considering how deprivation and inequality leads to poorer outcomes for many in our community, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this and made us realise that this needs to change.

It was encouraging that from everything that was discussed on the webinar, two points we kept coming back to were, the power of collaborative working in the system and the importance of listening to and harnessing the strength of our local community.

We heard many great examples from Catherine, who described how the pandemic has enabled cohesion amongst organisations across the system, with clinical leads who have tried their hardest for years to improve services finally being able to cut through the bureaucracy and make a real and meaningful difference.

Catherine also talked about how the Women’s and Children’s Programme reacted quickly to the pandemic to work with the local community and bring services to them. The benefits of this were many, but what really stood out is how much the team were able to learn from being embedded in communities, where they were able to hear first-hand from mothers in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities why they weren’t accessing healthcare and what the system could do to help them. This kind of intelligence is second-to-none and you just don’t get the same engagement from communities by sitting in an NHS setting or an office block – we need to be out there with our people, having conversations and solving problems.

We also discussed the impact of jobs on health and the relationship between the two. We know that being employed brings so many benefits to a person’s life, whilst also benefitting the economy and the local community. Alan Higgins gave a brilliant example of a scheme on the Wirral that is supporting those with severe mental health issues to help people engage with employment and keep stable jobs.

Mark Swift, a good friend and fantastic social entrepreneur, talked of a ‘social revolution’ happening in our country, with the number of social enterprises like Wellbeing Enterprises CIC being established overtaking the number of private businesses. He believes that with these dedicated and agile organisations happening in communities, population health will continue to improve, and people will feel more supported in their lives.

So how do we create the vision for an inclusive economy? If only we could have answered that question within the hour, but we’ve made a good start! If it was up to me, I’d introduce a £1 tax on every employer and employee which would end up in a Cheshire and Merseyside community fund and would go towards funding projects and individuals that would make a difference to peoples’ health, and ultimately, their lives.

This is only a fraction of the fantastic conversation I am elated to be a part of. I’d recommend that you listen back to the full webinar if you didn’t get a chance to tune in on the day, which you can do here.

You still have time to register for the second webinar of this series, ‘In Practice: Delivering Social Value at Scale’, which takes place on Thursday 17th September at 10am.

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