How health and wellbeing boards will benefit from national and local partnership working

As health and wellbeing boards move through the final few months of running in shadow form, Joyce Redfearn, the new National Director for Health and Wellbeing Board Implementation, reflects on the hard work and effort shown by the Department, its partners and boards themselves over the past 15 months.

I am pleased to be writing my first article as National Director after stepping into the role previously held by John Wilderspin. During the next few months, I hope to build on his strong legacy and ensure support continues for health and wellbeing boards from 1 April. In particular, I will want to ensure that the new health system with local government can effectively support boards to deliver better outcomes for their communities.

An enormous amount of work has taken place at all levels to set up the boards, but it is clear that the hard work will really begin as boards move from shadow to live form. The Department is working hard with its partners to ensure that health and wellbeing boards continue to receive support and guidance as they begin supporting their local communities as statutory bodies from 1 April.

In many ways, this partnership working between DH, local government and other partners (e.g. the LGA, NHS Confederation and Healthwatch England), throughout the implementation programme mirrors the partnerships that will need to flourish at a local level if boards are to succeed.

I have seen first-hand how building strong partnerships eases the challenge of distilling local priorities and translating strategies to implementation. I recently observed a board debating short-term goals and more complex longer-term objectives. It was impressive to see this direction-setting in action and the collaboration of a broad range of people who have the same goal: to make a real difference for their community.

As well as looking forward to 1 April, it is useful to reflect on what resources are already available for supporting boards as they navigate this crucial period. The Department has collaborated with partners at a national level to deliver a comprehensive set of resources, many of which you will find on our Knowledge Hub group (details below).

A common concern for boards is that of involving local providers in decision-making. The recent NHS Confederation report, ‘Stronger together: how health and wellbeing boards can work effectively with local providers’, suggests that boards should adapt their engagement to suit local priorities to ensure the best outcomes for communities.

One practical challenge will be overcome with the publication of the secondary legislation. These technical regulations enable boards to establish themselves formally and the intention is to give as much flexibility to local areas as possible and to build on how shadow boards are already running. In addition to the regulations, the Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO) are jointly publishing a practical guide to support local authorities in interpreting and implementing constitutional and governance aspects of the legislation. This will be published on their respective websites shortly.

The Department is also producing a suite of resources for supporting health and wellbeing boards and wider stakeholders in understanding what ‘good’ looks like in relation to Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies (JHWSs). The resources will include new material as well as signposts to existing documents that align with the new role of JSNAs and JHWSs and we anticipate that these will be published over the coming months. In the meantime, draft guidance on undertaking JSNAs and JHWSs can be found on the consultations page of the DH website.

Over the past 15 months, my colleagues in the HWB team have used a number of tools and channels to drive conversation between health and wellbeing board members, both online (through Twitter, the Knowledge Hub and online publications such as the Local Government Chronicle), and offline through conferences and workshops, including our national learning and sharing events. One way we have brought health and wellbeing boards together has been through a programme of webinars, or web-based seminars, which have generated inspiring and rich learning opportunities. Webinars have allowed board members from across the country to meet virtually and discuss issues such as including loneliness and social isolation in JSNAs and JHWSs and addressing issues of dementia and health inequalities. Recently, we ran a webinar with the Districts’ Council Network on how districts will contribute to the new public health system. Each webinar has been recorded and can be listened back to at

My colleague Janine, who is Communications Lead for the Health and Wellbeing Board Implementation programme, has recently produced a Storify highlighting the digital work she’s been leading on for the health and wellbeing board and Healthwatch implementation programme. You can read about Janine’s digital journey at

As you can see, the Department has worked closely with its partners to provide a comprehensive package of support for health and wellbeing boards as they move towards 1 April. However, giving boards the flexibility and space to decide what’s best for them may be the most important part of this package in their first year of statutory running. I will seek to ensure this happens and look forward to working with boards to help us get this right.

Stay in touch

Join the National Learning Network for health and wellbeing boards group on the Knowledge Hub. The Knowledge Hub is an online platform which provides tools to help people connect, share and learn from each other. All of the outputs from the National Learning Network for health and wellbeing boards can be found on the Knowledge Hub and the site provides a central online resource for any board members seeking clarity on a specific issue.

Follow the team on Twitter: @JanineatDH @davidatDH @Edwards1Ginny @FreyaLockatDH

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