Value of Third Sector Services in Healthcare

Value of Third Sector Services in Healthcare

Third sector organisations play a huge role in supporting healthcare in remote and rural areas and are not funded in a sustainable way. We will have to rely on these services more and more in the future but the projects and charities that supply this crucial network of services are competing for funding which is mainly short-term. Can we look at a more sustainable route for these organisations and an approach to funding that fosters a more collaborative approach? Currently many of these services are operating to cover a lack of services and were responders during the pandemic, providing a lifeline for people who would otherwise have been totally isolated , but they are not funded adequately and there is a real risk they may cease to exist with the current economic crisis. Without this network of third sector services, there will be increased pressure on primary care and a significant detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing of people living in remote and rural parts of Scotland who rely on these services.


as a third sector organisation that hit financial crises in January the need for sustaonable funding was highlighted more than ever. Governement resources went into panic mode for the families that use our services. The public stood behind us and were a massive part in saving our organisation. Alot were appauled that we do not receive any help from our local council or government but yet they rely on us heavily. Upskilling our employees and volunteers is crucial for when we need to react to needs but how can this be done with no sustainable funding?

The third sector in the Highlands is trusted by the communities they serve. Sadly the same cannot be said for public sector organisations. The only way the third sector can be maintained is by the NHS honestly looking at where the third sector can carry out their services cheaper and more effectively and in some cases they may even be cheaper/more experienced in provision of statutory services. Nothing should be off the table.

Our third sector are the “boots on the ground", fully receptive to what is going on in our local, rural communities. Here at ‘Connecting Carers’ we highlight people’s needs, listen to their own, unique experiences, “hear their voices.” Then we “go to bat” for this group of incredible human beings tasked with such a demanding, selfless, caring role. It is our close engagement that allows us to understand more about Carers’ needs. We can then push legislators to act on what issues our caring community are facing; to champion required change necessary to support all our carers. It is all about social impact. Sustainable funding and support are vital to continuing to provide these services to our people in need across Highland.

Volunteering with (and also being a trustee of) a charity supporting the older generation in a rural area, a lot of effort has to go into fundraising - effort that could be more usefully put into providing services. We are also starting to become disadvantaged when seeking funding because a large part of what we do is providing transport for medical appointments where the NHS is unable to provide it, and suitable public transport is not available (in fact, some of our villages have no public transport). Because we use cars for the service, we do not tick some of the funders boxes for environmental credentials.

Our third sector is hugely undervalued. These agencies are a vital part of "care in the community", most especially in rural areas however, they are underfunded and often unsupported. The value for money achieved by third sector organisations is unparalleled and their ability to be reactive and flexible makes them even more valuable. We need the Scottish Government to ring fence money destined for the third sector so that it doesn't get diverted into NHS shortfalls and that inflationary increases are actually passed on. We also need to make contracts with providers that are at a realistic level and for a period of time that is long enough for the organisation operate with confidence.

Third sector agencies are currently filling huge gaps in services due to lack of resources within the NHS. Many agencies struggle to plan ahead due to the lack sustained funding. With greater funding and sustainability the services provided by the third sector could be even greater and more innovative. Third section agencies have the benefit of being more agile than the NHS and thus more responsive to local needs

This point comes up time and again in the rural health research carried out at UHI. We can see the enormous value of the rural third sector but there is still a lot that needs to be done in terms of integration, valuing and funding. In many rural areas, community organisations and third sector services are the backbone of holistic wellbeing support and further integration (and funding) with statutory services and infrastructure could be beneficial. When we asked residents of a rural area of the Scottish islands what their priorities would be for mental wellbeing – they discussed the need for community-based support systems, sitting alongside adequate availability of health care professionals within rural areas.

the majority of third sector organisations focus purely on people under the age of 65.

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