Report shows success of NHS and third sector referral service

A report into a pioneering service, which sees NHS health staff working with Referral Coordinators to link patients into third sector support across North Cumbria, had been praised in a report.

Health and Society Knowledge Exchange (HASKE), at the University of Cumbria, was commissioned by Cumbria Council for Voluntary Services (Cumbria CVS) to evaluate their ICC Third Sector Referral Coordinator Team and its work, including a Health and Welfare Telephone Support Service.

The Third Sector Referral Coordinator Team was established in June 2019 as a 12-month pilot service, funded by NHS England. The initial aim was for coordinators to become familiar with the third sector services and to encourage health colleagues to refer patients to the appropriate services within communities.

Rear-view of woman holding telephone to earThe Health and Welfare Telephone Support Service began in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, supporting patients on discharge from hospital, or when they might benefit from additional support from third sector services. Developed by Cumbria CVS in partnership with NCIC NHS Trust, and funded by North Cumbria CCG, it is delivered by the Team in partnership with seven third sector organisations: Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK Carlisle and Eden, Age UK West Cumbria, Carlisle Carers, Eden Carers, People First and West Cumbria Carers.

Supporting patients through a series of telephone calls which aim to identify and address health and social concerns; link patients and their carers to ongoing community support; support patients to navigate health and social care services; and keep clinical staff updated about issues and outcomes, the report shows the service has been used consistently since it began operating.

The coordinators have honorary contracts with the NHS, allowing them to work collaboratively with health colleagues by updating patient records in real time, and are highly valued by ICC clinical and care staff. Amongst the benefits highlighted by the report for ICC staff were having a single point of access for patient referrals, and confidence that their patients would continue to be cared for by those with expertise of the third sector.

Patients have seen clear benefits too, with access to a wide range of appropriate support and information leading to improvements to their quality of life.

The report’s findings suggest that the project has been a success for all those involved, and that a clear case exists for funding the expansion of the Team to allow the scope of their work across the ICCs to increase, and to embed their service in a wider range of patient pathways.

Amongst the report’s conclusions was that “The work to date has provided excellent examples of good practice for partnership working between the public and community sectors”.

Clare Edwards, Health Partnerships Manager at Cumbria CVS, and lead for the project said “This report clearly indicates how important it has been for the third sector to be fully integrated into health and care teams delivering care for patients in North Cumbria, and the added value they can bring to improve patient outcomes. The Team has worked hard to establish these innovative new services and to build connections with staff throughout the NHS and Adult Social Care. We are delighted that the report supports the work they do and its continued growth.

We are pleased that North Cumbria CCG has continued to fund the project through 2022/23 and that we will continue to work closely with NCIC to further develop the work of the Team and its integration with Trust staff Teams”.


An Executive Summary of the report is available here

You can read the full Evaluation of Third Sector Referral Coordinator Team Report here (Please note: some geographical information has been removed from the Case Studies in the report to ensure the anonymity of clients.)