The social and economic context which public and community services are operating in has often been described as the ‘perfect storm’; where higher demand and reduced resources frustrate attempts to support the prevention of ill-health and the encouragement of good health.

Communities are mobilising across England to improve experiences of health and care services and the wellbeing of others through many different kinds of local action.

To celebrate and support this, the Health as a Social Movement (HASM) programme has worked in partnership with six vanguard sites across the country to:

  • Understand and explore their aims and concerns about health and care in their area.
  • Encourage people to value and build on their assets and experience.
  • Enable people to get together, help each other, build knowledge, and develop a shared purpose.
  • Work out together what can support the improvement of the health and wellbeing of people living in their areas.
  • Build momentum for change in health and care, learning as we go.

Alongside the sites, we are working to achieve the following changes:

  • People take more control over health and care services.
  • People are better able help themselves and others to stay well and get ill less often and for shorter periods of time.
  • Communities build their capacity to meet health and care needs.
  • More people are able to lead good lives.
  • There is less acute demand for NHS and other services for avoidable treatment and care.

The six vanguard sites all have taken up the opportunity to achieve transformational change in their communities differently. However, the sites have all demonstrated that different actions build on each other, so that momentum for change can keep growing and spreading over time.

In conjunction with a final paper containing the evaluations of the sites and recommendations for the health and care system, this report looks at what has happened in practice across the sites, what local groups did and how their activities are continuing to help make change.

  • We start by summarising briefly the why and the how of making these changes: what’s wrong with the way things are now, and what needs to be done differently?
  • We then offer a picture of what success looks like, to help take stock of progress so far and guide future activities.
  • We describe what’s happening in six communities and draw on their experiences to show how they are trying to make change.

This way, we hope to encourage and support citizens and workers engaged in health and care across the country – from local community based organisations and local public services, to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and all those trying to transform the health and care system so that it is able to meet current and future needs.

This report, produced by NEF and the RSA, is aimed at helping people that are committed to improving health and care to take forward the principles that we have found underpin successful relationships with communities into their work.