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Guest post by Deborah Fisher, Director of Crisis Response and Independent Living (South and Channel Islands), British Red Cross

The Richmond Group's ‘Tapping the Potential’ report chronicles the start of a collaboration journey. The work started with a focus on wanting people to live as well as they possibly can and looking at some of the things that stop this happening. In Somerset, we then took this a step further, looking in more detail at how Richmond Group charities might work to develop a practical partnership with the health and care system in order to make a positive difference to people using health services.

Our conversations have explored how we can support people home from hospital to return to independent living; how we can reach people who might benefit from community support at the earliest opportunity; and how to make best use of our diverse skills and talents in supporting people in the way they choose.

"It has reinforced our view that although people move between organisations, we are all part of one system - although it doesn’t always feel that way".

In Somerset, the British Red Cross delivers a number of services supporting vulnerable adults to return home after a period of hospital admission and then providing ongoing community-based support to enable people to remain independent in their own homes.  We recognise we are often only part of the solution for the individuals we meet, and we link to many other voluntary sector organisations to provide person-centred support.

The Richmond Group discussions have reinforced our view that a more systematic way to enable the statutory and voluntary sectors to work together in Somerset would be of real benefit, both to individuals requiring support as well as to a health and social care system under pressure.

Organisations acting alone or in small groups cannot bring about the kind of change that will meet the challenges ahead. Tapping the Potential notes that nearly 15 million people across England are living with a long-term health condition and 1.2 million older people are not getting the help they need. As people’s needs become more complex and pressure increases on services, the NHS and social care systems struggle to cope. We know we need to move towards more integrated, person-centred models of health and care to better meet these needs, but getting there isn't easy.

The next step will be taking what we have learned so far and building on that to make a tangible offer to people in Somerset. We want an integrated system that supports people to live as well as they can, the way they want. Part of the next step will be around funding, but more important will be the steady willingness and commitment of all partners to make change happen.

We’d love to hear about your experiences of collaboration. Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #TappingthePotential.