Co-production 'pokes the bear' in Northern Ireland

Featured article - 17 July 2017
Deirdre McCloskey, Project Coordinator, Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership

Head-shot of the author, Deirdre McCloskey, Project Coordinator, Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership

Having visited New Zealand in Autumn 2016 and seen first hand just how powerful the Haka war dance is when performed by a Maori Village, Warren Gatland’s comments following the British and Irish Lions win over the All Blacks on Saturday 1 July made me laugh out loud: “Yes, we have poked the bear but hopefully the wounded Lion from last week is still recovering as well.”

Joint Vision

For me that is what co-production in its essence should all be about – ‘Poking the bear’. Different organisations and individuals being pushed out of their comfort zone, to work together towards a joint vision to tackle the things we refer to as ‘problems’ in a new and innovative fashion.

Communities have assets!

My role for the last four years as a Project Development Officer for a small local older peoples’ charity- MEAAP in Northern Ireland - has been exhilarating and frustrating. As a community representative, I keep hearing the phrases “shift left”, “person-centred care” and “integrated care” but it can be accused of being only token efforts at times Communities of all shapes and sizes have assets and are worth investing in; we can just find it difficult to show our value to health because we tend to be unable to measure it in the way health services are commissioned.

Opportunities not obstacles

I was excited to learn about co-production, and rather than work in our own little silo, we as a community organisation took the lead in ‘poking the bears’ to co-produce a model of care designed to support and improve the quality of life for older people living in our local community; those with long-term health conditions.

This model, which we call IMPACTAgewell, is all about “Involving Many to Prescribe Alternative Care Together to Agewell”. MEAAP have been working in partnership with various health care professionals including General Practitioners, Community Pharmacists, the local Northern Health and Social Care Trust, the Northern Local Commissioning Group and Integrated Care Partnership, as well as our local authority Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to design a new model of care for older people since January 2016.

Care in the community, by the community

IMPACTAgewell embraces the bottom up, community-development approach to tackling the social determinants of health on a case-by-case basis, putting the social back into a very medical model of healthcare and by allowing care in the community to be delivered by the community. And it goes one step further than signposting to community, in that it actually plans to invest over £300,000 in local communities.

Its early days on a long and winding road

It is very early days in terms of now putting into practice a three year pilot programme, thanks to the investment of nearly £1,000,000 from Dunhill Medical Trust, following a competitive bidding process across the UK. And I have no doubt there will be many challenges ahead. But the community are ready for the challenge.

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