Health professionals are judged by the quality of their interventions, therefore it is of little surprise that health commissioners, such as CCGs, should be driven by the same scientific practice. But what does this mean for small charities that are providing services such as care for the elderly, or those with mental health or substance abuse problems? Recognising the issue is obviously the first step, but how do you move beyond that phase into real engagement with the commissioners?

Andy Murphy, chief executive at Age UK Islington, gave us a unique insight into what that can mean at a seminar we ran recently. He described the depth of the work he has lead as he has tried to get underneath the issue of what impact data health commissioners best respond to. Andy described his journey from starting with an Excel spreadsheet to what he has created today – a complex set of interrelated measures that work off a sophisticated data platform. This is where care meets big data.

His message was simple – it is all to do with prevention. Health commissioners want to see as many of their patients as possible, getting support that prevents them from needing a costlier intervention. There will be some individuals for whom this is unavoidable and necessary, but for most this is the area where small charities can make the most impact. And for users and carers – the ultimate beneficiaries – prevention truly is better than cure, representing stability in their lives.

Age UK Islington has pioneered a shift away from standard surveys to a more qualitative model – this is because standard surveys work better for episodic problems, while the needs thrown up by prevention are more complex and sensitive. Requiring a new way to fully capture wellbeing for their beneficiaries, Age UK Islington simply created their own. Their system is now designed to track individual cases and recommend the best services and interventions, with direct input from staff where necessary.

The analytics Murphy now has underpinning this system track what level of outcomes are being achieved, and these are translated back into the operations side of the organisation and used to incentivise better staff performance. Service duration, for example, has served as a powerful indicator of which cases are abnormal and require intervention.

This model also enhances Age UK Islington’s structure and market position. The business model now has two aspects: there are its charitable services to end users, free at the point of use and predominantly provided on contract. But Age UK Islington has also developed a professional services arm, which includes data, consultancy, outcome modelling and training. This diversifies its income, crucial for smaller not-for-profits in the current environment – revenue has grown from £800k to £1.8m last year and its income sources are looking stable for the next five years. But it also expands Age UK Islington’s impact footprint, making it a sophisticated ‘local giant’ in a competitive sector.

Innovations like the ones Age UK Islington are undertaking are vital given the pressures the sector faces, and hopefully are replicable more widely, if we are willing to experiment with what works.

At Eastside Primetimers we have two more seminars coming up before the end of the year. On Tuesday 18th October we host an event on the world of Leisure Trusts and how they are changing and transforming themselves in response to the economic and social pressures of the communities in which they operate, with Sporta chief executive Brian Leonard. And on Monday 14th November, we have a seminar on when and why charities resort to the law, which will be in run in partnership with the human rights legal team at Irwin Mitchell LLP and feature Alex Rook as speaker. Contact us at if you would like to attend.

Eastside Primetimers

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