Community hub network helps relieve pressure on health services

7th July 2023


New evidence report finds community hubs can assist the local integrated care system by keeping people well, connected and supported where they live

A new evaluation report, produced by the charity Helpforce, has found that a network of community hubs in Cornwall has helped to reduce increasing pressure on NHS services by providing local support to local people.

Survey data collected from six hubs from a network of over 40 in the region, has shown that without the support of a hub, 50 per cent of members said they would have approached a healthcare provider, with 38 per cent saying they would have contacted their GP had support from a hub not been available to them.

From over 400 people surveyed across six community hubs, the evaluation report found:

  • People's confidence in managing their own health increased from 59 to 76 per cent after using community hub services.
  • Community hubs provide support that improves emotional wellbeing - in terms of improved mood (93 per cent), reduced feelings of loneliness (88 per cent), and improved self-esteem (85 per cent).
  • 99 per cent of members had their expectations met or exceeded.

Community hubs are places and spaces that act as a central point of voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) contact and support for their communities. They are connectors of people, communities, local groups and voluntary sector organisations and activities.

Between November 2022 and March 2023, the hubs received more than 50,000 attendances (children, adults and elderly attendees), who were supported in many ways, including access to a heated environment, refreshments, social activities, practical support and advice, as well as signposting to other services.

At a time when the cost of living crisis, cold weather and rising energy bills had gripped the country - the report found Cornwall’s network of hubs to be a vitally important community asset, providing essential local support that can respond to health and social care strategies to keep people well, connected and supported close to where they live.

One hub user, Eric*, said: “I don't know where I'd be without them... They go the extra mile as well... I'm just scared, if they (the hubs) ever close down I don't know what would happen, not besides me but to a lot of people.”

The report was produced by Helpforce, in partnership with Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board (ICB), Volunteer Cornwall and Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum (VSF). The evaluation was co-designed with hub leaders and VCSE partners.

Dylan Champion, System Director – Adults, Children and Community, NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board, said: “The Integrated Care Board is committed to supporting the community hub development which is an important part of our community resource.

“The evaluation provides recognition of the really important role that these services are playing in delivering positive outcomes for residents in Cornwall, supporting people to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible and help people to help themselves and each other so they stay independent and well in their community.”

Paddy Hanrahan, Director of Strategy at Helpforce, said: “We are delighted that our work evaluating the hubs has been well received and may play a part in sustaining this vital community asset. Cornwall’s alliance of voluntary sector collaboration and ICB support is a great example of how integrated care systems can support VCSE-provided services that can help people stay healthy and well where they live.”

Andy Brelsford, Support and Development Manager at Volunteer Cornwall, said: “This is a fantastic example of what can happen when commissioners trust communities to know best. The hubs know their areas better than anyone and they see the problems and challenges of living in a place first hand every day which makes them the best people to come up with the right solutions to local needs.”

Emma Rowse, Chief Executive Officer at Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum, said: “This evaluation demonstrates the impact that local, community-based anchor organisations have in supporting people in their place. It also demonstrates the benefits of collaboration between the hub network, wider VCSE partners and our ICB.

“Cornwall VSF is delighted to support the community hub network as a vital part of the essential local and thematic VCSE support available across Cornwall.”

The full report is available to read here

* This case study is based on an interview with a hub member and has subsequently been anonymised. The image is used for illustrative purposes only.


Volunteer Cornwall - A charity dedicated to promoting voluntary action throughout the county

Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum (VSF) - Cornwall VSF is an infrastructure charity, which exists to connect, support and promote the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.