Delivering Buckinghamshire’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy: the role of the county’s voluntary sector, by Katie Higginson, Chief Executive of Community Impact Bucks

This week I was delighted to join the Buckinghamshire Health and Wellbeing Board along with my co-representative, Martin Gallagher from the Clare Foundation. This was the first time Buckinghamshire’s voluntary sector was officially represented on this important Board, and it was heartening to hear all the speakers, from across the sectors, referencing the importance of collaborative working with the county’s Voluntary and Community Sector – particularly in light of the sector’s role in response to the pandemic.

Health and Wellbeing Boards were a key feature of the NHS reforms introduced by the Government in 2012 to ensure greater integration of health and local government services. Officially established in 2013, the Health and Wellbeing Boards bring together representatives from across the sectors – including elected councillors and senior councillor officers, the local clinical commissioning group and Healthwatch – to design local strategies which put in place closer working practices that ultimately improve people’s health and wellbeing as well as reduce health inequalities.

Meeting for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buckinghamshire Health and Wellbeing Board discussed the impact of COVID-19 in the county and plans for recovery. The Board plans to ‘re-set’ the Health and Wellbeing Board work programme and update the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which will be published with an implementation plan in early 2021.

It was great to have the opportunity to talk about how central Buckinghamshire’s voluntary sector is to the Health and Wellbeing Board ’s strategy “Buckinghamshire – the place where all residents can Start Well, Live Well and Age Well”.

Drawing on insights gathered from voluntary sector colleagues over recent weeks and months, Community Impact Bucks and The Clare Foundation gave an overview of how the county’s voluntary sector plays a vital role in our health system, particularly on prevention and early intervention:

  • 94% of voluntary groups say they make a difference to people’s health and wellbeing
  • 90% combat social isolation
  • 65% work very locally in neighbourhoods/ villages

We also highlighted how the sector was able to respond quickly to the pandemic – working closely within communities, adapting services overnight and collaborating at local and strategic levels.

Equally important, we stressed how the sector had been hit hard by the pandemic: many organisations were affected financially as critical income streams were stopped at a time of great demand on their services and following a decade of under-resourcing.

Looking to the future, we identified three key priorities:

  • Preventing health inequalities from widening further
  • Providing solutions for people who can’t access digital services.
  • Continuing “the widespread spirit of collaboration across all health, council and voluntary sector partners”, making the best use of our collective resources to build resilience in our communities.

Between August and October this year, the Health and Wellbeing Board will be consulting with health and care partners, stakeholders and residents to feed into the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Final priorities and strategy will be agreed later in December, with implementation in early 2021.

This is an exciting opportunity for Buckinghamshire’s voluntary sector to feed into this comprehensive, multi-sector programme and establish closer ways of working with each other and our counterparts in the health and government sectors. If you would like to be involved and feed in the issues that matter to you, please email

Background information:

  • More information on the Health and Wellbeing Board and current plans and strategies can be found here.
  • To watch the Health and Wellbeing Board public meeting (7th July 2020) click here, or to see issues discussed in previous meetings, see the log of previous meetings.
  • If you have any questions on the Health and Wellbeing Board please contact: Katie McDonald, Health and Wellbeing Lead Officer,, tel 01296 382043.