The Excellence Network: Partnership Working winners

Welcome to the Excellence Network, Community Care’s new honours programme which recognises innovative and impressive practice and shares it with the whole of social care. We have been looking for teams that are passionate and committed and have implemented progressive ways of working.

Today we can reveal the teams our judges felt demonstrated real excellence in partnership working. The following six teams have broken down the barriers between different professions and brought everyone together around the common goal of transforming service users’ lives. Over the next four weeks, we will be covering honoured teams in the categories of user involvement, self-directed care, early intervention and training and development.


The Bridge Substance Misuse Service

This partnership between addiction specialists and GPs is helping more than 90 drug-using patients in Birmingham get back into mainstream service provision. At a local drug centre users can now benefit from a whole range of interventions in a GP setting while maintaining contact with specialists. Working together, the team has helped to build a more holistic system of care in a less stigmatising environment.

Part of the partnership’s success has been to ensure that links work both ways: drug users may be encouraged to re-enter mainstream services, but they can have immediate access back to specialists. Co-ordinated assessments and shared referrals have helped to make this an integrated service.

The main objective is for stable drug users to be treated by their own GPs and the involvement of stakeholders has been essential in encouraging this to happen. Commissioners from the Drug Action Team have helped by pooling budgets and increasing support to GPs who are willing to take on their own patients. Meanwhile, service users have offered feedback and helped spread the word about the services’ benefits. In a recent survey, 84% of participants rated treatment eight out of 10 or above and an increasing number of local GPs say they are now prepared to take on their own patients.

Mary Ryan, substance misuse clinician for the Bridge, says: “Shared care is an ideal scheme for getting drug-using patients to return to their GPs. Patients like to use the family planning, dental and smoking clinics, as well as the physical check-ups by GPs, to improve their well-being. It’s a privilege to see them getting their lives back on track.”


Gateway aims to bridge the gap between social and mental health services in Poole. Its team of 17 is based in social services and includes eight social workers and two mental health nurses. Working in partnership with Dorset Healthcare Foundation Trust and Bournemouth Primary Care Trust, Gateway provides one-to-one work, anxiety management courses, depression workshops, assertiveness training and self-help resources to those with mental health problems. Working with social services has helped Gateway extend its mental health support to those who have traditionally been hard to reach, including ethnic minorities, struggling parents and the elderly.

Gateway’s experience proves that a clear project management plan, agreed by all strategic agencies, is essential in ensuring partnership success.


East Cambridgeshire Children’s Team

Consisting of 10 staff this team is charged with managing a 0-19 population of 21,960 and rising in East Cambridgeshire. It deals mainly with Tier 1 and 2 children, that is children at risk of social exclusion and lower levels of children in need. There are 29 primary schools, four colleges, two special schools and 10 GP practices in the area. The area is divided into two localities and each has a children’s locality team made up of a range of professionals.

The large range of professional and voluntary children’s services in the area makes partnership working essential. To facilitate this, strong liaison roles have been created, and individual workers have been nominated to link directly with their counterparts in various agencies. The group works equally closely with the voluntary and state sector, with its closest partners including the National Offender Management Service and the East Cambridgeshire Family Project, a local voluntary agency.

At least part of the team’s success has come from acknowledging that no single agency is an expert. The service includes families in its list of partners, treating them as people to be engaged rather than obstacles to be overcome. The team’s ethos that “a partnership’s work is never done” helps to ensure strong links with all partners are maintained.


Aberdeenshire Autism Services

The National Autistic Society came together with Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeenshire Housing Partnership with the aim of delivering tenancy-based services to people with autism. A firm of architects was asked to design a set of suitable self-contained flats. The plans included curved internal corridors with ample natural light, the removal of sharp-angled walls and hard wiring to meet users’ specific technological needs. All three partners made a financial contribution to the project, and worked together to make up the remaining shortfall. The core team consisted of 10 people, and included members from each of the partner agencies. An ambitious project, this partnership was successful because of the team’s genuine commitment to joint-working based on a mutual belief system and respect for each other’s specific skills. The fact that all of the tenancies have now been taken up is proof that even seemingly insurmountable difficulties can be solved when expertise is pooled.


Reprovisioning Project Team

Following the closure of a nursing home in Melrose, Scotland, a diverse coalition of service providers were tasked with designing and delivering a new community-based service that would meet the needs of residents with physical and complex disabilities. The team combined expertise from social work, health, registered social landlords, residents and care providers. Six years on, users have increased choice and control and are living as tenants in the community rather than in care homes. They also have access to care through a single assessment and care plan available 24 hours a day.

Because closing the care home was a controversial move, building trust was an essential first step in getting the project off the ground. Clarity about roles and process was also essential – particularly over funding, which had the potential to be a source of tension. Formal appointments to ensure genuine joined-up working were also important, for example social work appointed key workers from health on to the project team.


The Meadows Centre of Excellence

This centre joins social care rehabilitation, primary care trust intermediate care and voluntary sector services to provide seamless support for people aged over 50 in Stoke on Trent. The Meadows demonstrates the importance of flexibility, choice and a single point of contact for users. The centre offers four categories of provision:

● High dependency bed-based – users are treated in a community hospital, with Meadows staff on hand to provide therapy and social work support.

● Low dependency bed-based – this service is provided within The Meadows and staff can provide nursing care, therapy, health and social care among others.

● High dependency home-based – within the centre there are staff who can provide a high level of service to people so they can stay in their own homes and receive the same level of support as those in the bed-based service, this may include 24-hour care.

● Low dependency home-based – a level of care appropriate to need.

The Meadows experience proves that a flexible non-homogenous approach to care can substantially improve welfare for the elderly, and the organisation is looking to expand.

What the judges said

Chris Hanvey, director of operations, Barnardos: “This category attracted the most entries and East Cambridgeshire demonstrates that the Every Child Matters agenda makes possible work with a whole range of agencies from GPs and education welfare officers to young offenders services and school nurses.”

Kathryn Stone, chief executive of Voice UK for people with learning disabilities: “On its form, Aberdeenshire Autism Services said: ‘For us, second best should never be first choice’ and that’s an important statement to make for people with autism. They should be commended for attempting to provide excellence in their service through working in close partnerships.”

Sue Bott, strategic director of the National Centre for Independent Living : “I was impressed with how the Reprovisioning Project Team came together to resolve an particular issue and stuck with it.”

The other judges were Gary Fitzgerald, chief executive of Action on Elder Abuse, and Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

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