Prevention is better than cure - Blog 22

Friday, March 8, 2019 - 13:45
Dr Paul Williams, Chair of WNCCG

Spring seems to have arrived and with it the end of one financial year and the start of the next. The good news is that it now looks likely the CCG will meet its financial target for this year, which is a significant achievement when one considers the scale of the deficit facing us at the end of last financial year.

The next year is a challenging one for us as we have been set a very tight financial target which will require us to save 4.2% of our total allocation, a difficult task. However, the year is also an exciting one.

Recently the NHS Long Term Plan was published; this plan comes with money attached to it and demands that the NHS transforms the way we deliver care. The main planks of the plan, as it affects you the patient, are that we are moving forward with plans to join up health and social care and that we will be altering the way we provide care so that we are more proactive rather than reactive.

I don’t pretend I can summarise the huge document that is the NHS Long Term Plan in a few lines but I do want to single out two things to mention to you; population health management and primary care networks.

In the past patients would become unwell, consult their doctor and receive treatment or admission to hospital. Clearly we aren’t going to stop treating you when you become unwell but what we are going to do is try to intervene to prevent you becoming unwell in the first place.

This isn’t just an extension of health promotion advice, such as trying to stop people smoking or encouraging them to take more exercise but, through the use of improved technology, identifying individuals in the population who are at risk of becoming unwell and providing interventions for those individuals to prevent their condition from deteriorating. This is population health management in a nutshell and we have high hopes for it. It is a way to keep you as well as possible at home rather than having an unnecessary admission to hospital.

Anyone who has read any of my previous articles will have heard about the plans for integration of health and social care. This is the fundamental idea behind the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) and the Integrated Care System (ICS). The ICS has three levels, the lower two being place (West Norfolk) and neighbourhood (groups of GP practices). These neighbourhood organisations are being called primary care networks and are envisaged as the fundamental building blocks of the ICS. Each network will consist of a group of neighbouring GP practices, representatives of community nursing, mental health providers, voluntary organisations, social prescribers, secondary care representatives and social services.

By all these organisations sitting around the same virtual table it will allow care to be provided in a more seamless way, with barriers between the various organisations being broken down. With the data being provided by population health management, as described above, these networks of key workers on the ground will be able to intervene to keep our vulnerable patients as well as possible and in their own homes as long as possible.

I have been hearing how we are going to transform the NHS for years and in reality very little has changed on the ground. I think things may be different this year and I really believe the way we provide care will be different this time next year. I don’t expect to have reached our final destination by then but I hope we have made substantial strides on the journey.