Regional health groups must partner with housing to achieve their ambitious aims

What role do housing providers and their partners play in delivering health and social care services? Our recent work with health think tank, The King’s Fund, illuminated just how vital these connections between housing and health could be for improving local services.

Helen Rowbottom, Policy Officer, National Housing Federation

Helen Rowbottom, Policy Officer, National Housing Federation

26 March 2018

The NHS has set up a number of sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs), which are designed to integrate health and social care with key partners like housing associations. The ambition of STPs is to relieve pressure and acute demand on hospitals by taking a preventative approach to reduce ill health and stop people from going to hospital unnecessarily. They’re developing new models of care to help improve the health and wellbeing of their local populations.

So where does housing fit in? It can help transform population health by offering short-term solutions, such as reducing delayed transfers of care from hospital. But the provision of good quality housing has a more fundamental and long-term impact: it improves people’s health over the course of their life, which, in turn, reduces the demand for NHS services.

The King’s Fund report focuses on three key areas where housing can help STPs:

  • Offering appropriate housing options and support services for people leaving hospital
  • Providing housing on NHS estate land
  • Supporting people with mental health problems with good-quality supported housing, enabling independent living in the community.

While these principles are hard to argue with, only a few STPs have put them into practice. In fact, only a handful of STPs have meaningfully engaged with their local housing partners, despite collaboration with community-based partners being key to their success.

The Nottingham and Nottinghamshire STP is at the forefront of health and housing integration. Housing partners are on the STP advisory group, have provided appropriate step-down housing options for people leaving hospital, and offer a ‘warm homes on prescription’ service. This has improved people’s health outcomes and system efficiency and made significant savings for the NHS.

The report echoes our calls for the long-term, strategic integration of health and housing, embedded at local level through the STPs and integrated care systems. It also offers practical recommendations about how STP leaders can form these partnerships in order to achieve the STPs’ ambitious goals.

Housing associations are ideally placed to help relieve pressure on the NHS, and are ready and willing to be involved in the delivery of the STPs. It’s now time for those conversations to really start to happen.

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