"I’d like to see the model we have here rolled out to other health services. It’s a win-win for everyone."

Forth Valley Sensory Centre is rooted in integration. When it first opened 14 years ago, it did so in  partnership with statutory services and the third sector. With Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire councils originally working together with RNIB, Action on Hearing Loss and NHS Forth Valley, the centre was able to provide a unique offering to those experiencing sensory loss under one roof.

Relationships were built over time and new partners joined the fold with the centre acting as a landlord, renting out space to other organisations who have a vested interest in supporting people with sensory loss. However, as Jacquie Winning, Centre Manager states: “It’s about how we can help services join up with one another. My role is getting people to talk to one another, to co-locate people in rooms so there’s a lot of cross fertilisation of ideas.”

Located in central Scotland, the purpose-built centre is an accessible, friendly and welcoming place. To this day partnership is at the heart of the centre’s ethos and a new joint venture with Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership has recently launched. The partnership with the new Living Well service was borne out of joint working on the steering group for the new offering in which Jacquie took part.

Living Well is an assessment tool, allowing people to assess their own health and social care needs as they age through an online portal. Brought in by Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership to positively impact the ageing population, the purpose of the tool is to aid people in managing their own health, maintaining wellbeing and retaining independence.

After the online assessment, depending on need, people may be invited to a centre location for further input. Jacquie identified an opportunity for working together and put forward a proposal for the first Living Well centre to be located at the Sensory Centre’s premises.

The strength of this partnership is built around the needs of the ageing population that sees higher numbers of people experiencing sight and hearing deterioration. Upon being assessed at Forth Valley Sensory Centre by the Health and Social Care Partnership, people can then be signposted onto internal services that can aid them with any sensory challenges, a two-pronged approach benefiting those who access the centre.

Lynette Denovan, Team Manager at Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership, who is working directly with Forth Valley Sensory Centre, says: “Sensory decline happens in older age often with no diagnosis. We need to be proactive in getting people out and about in their communities and helping people age in a way that keeps them healthy”.

To that end the partnership provides a strong function in linking people into the centre community, providing opportunities for socialising and for people experiencing sensory loss to spend time among peers. People can take part in a variety of social clubs, reducing the isolation that often occurs when sight or hearing loss begin to prove restrictive.

The bar has been set high for the new partnership. Lynette is enthusiastic about future developments that may include a drop-in service where people can go to discuss any health and social care needs and be linked into the Sensory Centre, making the offering even more accessible.

This partnership continues the focus on integration at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre present at its inception. As Jacquie states: “working together stops us becoming single minded and stops us from getting entrenched…I’d like to see the model we have here rolled out to other health services. It’s a win-win for everyone. We’ve tried and tested it, and it works.”

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