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The Core20Plus Connectors programme has recently passed an important milestone, with the selection of the first 11 areas to receive funding and progress their local initiatives. We share the rapid process to design and launch the programme, with the vital contribution of people with lived experience of health inequalities and those who have been in similar ‘connector’ type roles. 

The Connecters programme is part of the wider NHS Core20Plus5 approach to reduce healthcare inequalities

  • Core20Plus Connectors are members of those communities who are often not well supported by existing services, experience health inequalities, and who then help change these services to support their community better. 
  • The Connectors programme will develop and support community-based roles to impact the goals of Core20Plus5 - acting as a voice to focus on barriers and enablers to reduce health inequalities and connect people with decision-makers.
  • This will include taking practical steps locally for health improvement in excluded communities experiencing healthcare inequalities, with focus on the five priority areas (maternity care, severe mental illness, severe respiratory disease, cancer, and cardio-vascular disease) and other locally identified priorities.

SCW began work on the programme in November 2021, on behalf of the NHS Health Inequalities Improvement Team, led by Dr Bola Owolabi.  Right from the start, working with our valued partners Healthwatch England, National Voices, and The Health Creation Alliance, we agreed that there were some important design principles to establish and follow in the planning and development of the programme - 

  • The programme should develop with co-design at its heart, collaborating with partners at local and national level to form the design and support mechanisms for the programme. This should include people with lived experience of disadvantage and exclusion and of carrying-out community champion roles. 
  • Ensure the programme is fully informed by similar initiatives and programmes that support/fund community champions, and the lessons and experience across partners that has built up.
  • Apply an appreciative inquiry approach, enabling local partnerships to build on positive strengths and assets to develop and support community-based Connectors. 
  • Recognise that local system partnerships are likely to choose and develop differing approaches and models to recruiting and supporting Connectors. 
  • Ensure a focus on real-life outcomes, that also includes the experiences and ambitions of community members and volunteers, rather than on mechanisms and process.

With these principles in mind, the design and preparation of the programme proceeded at a fair pace in late autumn 2021 and early 2022 – this included our partners convening and facilitating a set of workshop sessions with strong input from people with lived experience. These sessions in turn informed and contributed directly to joint engagement with ICS colleagues who were interested in submitting a proposal for receiving funding in the first wave of the programme.  

Lived experience

The lived experience input to the programme design and preparation has had great impact and significance. It has shaped the ethos and emphasis of the Connectors programme to ensure local initiatives are genuinely community-driven in the focus of their design and delivery. Importantly, it prioritises that these Connectors can and are able to influence decision-making in the design and delivery of services. Connectors will act as critical links between communities and services/systems, to make sure that enablers and barriers to better access, experience, and outcomes of healthcare, are considered in decisions as well as the impact on health improvement action within local communities.  

Selecting the initial sites for funding in the first wave also had direct involvement from partners with lived experience, impacting on the final choice of the 11 sites that were selected from 26 proposals.  

At a personal level I’ve found it so valuable to be listening and engaging with people that have really experienced the sharp end of health inequalities and disadvantage. I’ve worked for many years in the fields of data and digital health and have not often worked directly with partners who bring personal experience of the health and care issues that we want to have an impact on.  

All our organisational partners on the programme bring great experience and connections with people and groups that add depth and insight from lived experience to the design and set-up of the Connectors programme.  The list below outlines the range of people and organisations involved, reflecting a diversity of personal and community experiences.  

Co-design - who's been involved?

  • Informal Community Organiser - Dartmouth
  • Informal Community/Agency Connector and Live Experience of Mental Ill Health - N. Yorks
  • Informal Community Leader - Salford
  • Informal Community Connector and PPG Chari - Cornwall
  • Social Prescribing Link Worker and Lived Experience of Mental Health - Wakefield
  • Integrated Care Community Development Lead - Morecombe Bay
  • Social Prescribing Link Worker - London
  • Local Area Coordinator  - York
  • Researcher and Community Connector - Exeter
  • Pharmacist and Self-Care /Health Inequalities ICS Lead - Milton Keynes
  • Time-bank Broker, former Care Navigator and Community Link Worker - London
  • Health Influencer Change Worker for female street sex workers - Yorkshire
  • Chair of Calderdale Council for Mosques
  • Groundswell
  • Roma Support Group
  • Doctors of the World
  • Thrive Teeside
  • LGBTQ Foundation
  • Routes Change
  • Grenfell and Brent Community Connectors
  • Abbey Community Care
  • One Westminster - City of Westminster
  • Paddington Development Trust
  • Maternity Champions - Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea
  • Volunteer Centre - Kensington and Westminster
  • Maida Vale Community Centre
  • Mental Health First Service CIC
  • NHS North West London Collaboration of CCGs

The reports from the collaborative co-design phase for the Core20Plus Connectors programme are available at these links:  

As the programme develops with the first set of 11 local initiatives, we’ll be looking to support those areas. Integrating ongoing co-design with lived experience will be central to this community-based approach to tackling health inequalities.  

for more information on the Core20PLUS Connectors programme please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Deputy Director (Transformation)

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