I really believe we are at a turning point now in the NHS.
The period from your summer holidays ending and being a distant memory, to Christmas coming and all the planning that involves is always a busy time in our lives. It’s the same in the NHS.
The pressures are at their greatest.
Increasing demands as a consequence of our aging population, patient expectation and the move towards seven day working, the gaps financially as a consequence, and the imminent arrival of winter (if it ever went away), our health and care system and the rest of the NHS struggle to cope.
However cope we must. We must ensure the care we provide to our patients is the best it can be. We mustn’t lose sight of our patients as individuals, as people, with their own fears, needs and expectations. We will get through the winter. Our plans are in place. We have the support and commitment of the other care providers and commissioners across our patch. We will work together closely to deliver (more of this shortly).
And next year is an election year – when whoever is successful politically will need to make some tough decisions around the future of the NHS. It is a time for strong leadership, setting a new direction. Mark Britnell when he visited us talked about a new health champion being required, a new Aneurin Bevan moment….
I think that has been signalled with the publication of the ‘Five Year Forward View’ by Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive at NHS England. It’s a national document with local implications, which is so relevant to us and our aims that I’ve written to him personally to find out how we can be a part of it.
The true integration of health and social care services is the biggest challenge for the NHS over the next 5 years, and the biggest challenge for us now. We have already started on this path with the creation of the ‘West Cheshire Way,’ however the pace of change is too slow to meet the immediate needs of our patients. We have made small steps; however we now need to make big strides.
The report proposes new models of service and form of health provider, which are already being explored in other areas of this country and abroad. There is much we can learn from other healthcare provider systems, however we feel we also can play a key role in transforming our local system, and using this as an exemplar for the rest of the NHS.
Finally a great deal of emphasis is placed on the importance of local research and development in healthcare. The creation of our Centre for Integrated Healthcare Science, in conjunction with the University of Chester is another example of where we are in sync with the wider national agenda.
The report marks a turning point for the NHS. The turning point is here, and it’s a point of no return.