Ways to Wellness

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Ways to Wellness

Bridges Ventures will invest £1.65m in a new social impact bond (SIB) that has been designed to improve the health outcomes of over 11,000 people in the north of England.

This is now the 13th SIB to be backed by Bridges Ventures – the specialist fund manager which is dedicated to sustainable and impact investment and was founded by “the father of British venture capital” Sir Ronald Cohen.

Antony Ross, partner and head of Social Sector Funds at Bridges Ventures, said: “This pioneering SIB is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between local GPs, the Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the local voluntary sector. We’re very excited about the potentially powerful impact it could have on the health outcomes of people with long-term conditions in the local area.”

The Ways to Wellness SIB has been commissioned by NHS Newcastle West CCG (NWCCG), Big Lottery Fund’s Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund and the Cabinet Office’s Social Outcomes Fund.

Dr Guy Pilkington, chair of NHS Newcastle West CCG, said: “We are really pleased and excited by the opportunity of working with Ways To Wellness to improve the health of 11,000 people in Newcastle over the next few years with long term health conditions.”

Ways to Wellness is a newly-formed organisation that aims to use non-medical interventions – for example education support programmes for people with a history of substance abuse – to achieve sustainable lifestyle changes and improve self-care among people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. Patients will be referred directly onto the Ways to Wellness programme by their GP and will remain on it for an average of 21 months. The aim is to improve their ability to manage their illness – through healthier behaviours, increased community participation, and better access to specialist health services.

70% of national NHS spend goes towards providing support and treatment to the over 15 million people in the UK who suffer from long-term health conditions.

The four social sector organisations who have been selected to provide the non-medical services are: Changing Lives, First Contact Clinical, HealthWORKS Newcastle and Mental Health Concern. The contracts with these organisations are structured on an ‘outcomes payment’ basis, so investors will only be paid according to the level of improvement in health outcomes achieved. The Big Lottery Fund will pay up to £2 million in outcomes payments and the Cabinet Office up to £1 million. The SIB will start next week and will run for an initial seven years.

SIB Scepticism

It’s fair to say that not everyone is sold on the idea of SIBs. Concerns have been raised about the demands placed on the service providers in the setting up of a SIB – copious amounts of form filling and bureaucracy that some social sector organisations do not have to capacity to comply with.

Ross told Pioneers Post: “In terms of the systems, support and reporting there is a need for organisations to ramp up their monitoring and reporting capabilities but I don’t think that’s beyond what we all feel is going to be beneficial for these type of contracts – it’s enabling us to collect data to inform us what’s working and what isn’t. Certainly the smaller organisations we have worked with have embraced that and accepted it as the default way in which they are working.” Concerns have also been raised about the increasing momentum around SIBs globally, despite the fact those active are still very early stage. Referring to the Department for Work and Pensions’ Innovation Fund, Ross said: “I think we are seeing some encouraging process and results. We’re certainly not in the mature stage of the market, but I think when it comes down to it, the key driver of this should be the commissioners deciding they want to contract for outcomes rather than for inputs. It’s the commissioners that need to see the evidence to show that what they’re commissioning is better value and delivering better outcomes for what they are commissioning.”

Looking ahead

The Ways to Wellness SIB is the first in the world specifically designed to help people with long-term health conditions. Professor Chris Drinkwater CBE, Chair, Ways to Wellness, said: “It has immense potential for replication and, as a charity, Ways to Wellness proposes to share the lessons we learn along the way."

Source: Pioneers Post, 30 Mar 15: http://www.pioneerspost.com/news-views/20150330/bridges-ventures-backs-uks-first-active-healthcare-sib