What do snowballs and eels have to do with health funding?

February 12, 2024

Earlier this week, we published “Snowballs and Eels”, our rapid review of national funding for cross-sector partnership building in health and care in England. This report was commissioned by The National Lottery Community Fund. It looks at what funding from national sources has been made available to support the VCSE sector’s engagement in partnerships with health and care system partners over recent years.

The title of the report reflects one of our key findings – that the funding landscape is complex, fragmented and opaque, and geographic differences which have emerged have led to a snowball effect of funding in some Integrated Care Systems, where others are still struggling to secure funding amongst a “morass of eels”.

The report sets out a range of learning on the impact different approaches to funding can have, and the benefits and limitations to thinking about how resources are deployed. However, like the findings of many others, the learning makes clear that that funding alone is not the answer; whilst effective, targeted and sustainable funding is critical, it must go hand-in-hand with advice and support and relationships, culture and shared vision are at the heart of success.

Our report comes hot on the heels of the The King's Fund's Actions to support partnerships: Addressing barriers to working with the VCSE sector in integrated care systems. This report, commissioned by NHS England, highlights many similar findings in relation to working with the VCSE sector within health systems generally, and on the topic of funding and sustainability of this more generally. In particular, both reports highlight:

  • The need to invest in the VCSE partnerships themselves, what we’re defining as the structural partnerships, as well as direct delivery activity, to sustain engagement and outcomes.
  • That adaptation of leadership styles, cultures and behaviours are critical in both NHS and VCSE bodies to ensure more cross-sector collaboration, and intentional time and space to build relationships is essential.
  • Whilst funding is critical, there are other areas of support across a range of areas but particularly the use of data and intelligence that will sustain effective partnerships.
  • That this is a long-term goal and we should be prepared to keep working towards it.‍

Over the coming months, we will continue to work with partners to consider how we can continue to support collaboration and partnerships between health bodies and VCSE sectors.

Read the full report here: https://navca.org.uk/health-and-wellbeing