The start of a new decade is a good time to take stock of where you are, what you have achieved and where you are going.
This year we are entering the third decade of this century; the NHS celebrated its 70th birthday in 2018 so the last 20 years represent only about 30% of its existence. In that time, however, it has experienced the most difficult sustained period of pressure since its inception. We must find the way to manage and meet this demand upon our services.
West Norfolk CCG came into existence during the past decade and will cease to exist as a stand-alone CCG in the next three months when it merges with the other CCGs in the area to form the new Norfolk and Waveney CCG. The idea behind CCGs is that by giving clinicians an influential seat at the commissioning table, the decisions made have a sounder basis medically, which in turn should deliver better outcomes for the patient. At a time where every penny spent has to be examined and justified, the luxury of having small administrative units to manage localities rather than large county areas which confer a saving by doing things at scale, has been difficult to support. There is no doubt money spent on administration will be less with the new merged CCG and it must be right that more of the NHS pound is spent on healthcare rather than administration.
The start of the new decade coincides with a new government. A government which has promised significant investment in the physical infrastructure of the NHS.
Last year our mental health trust was told it would receive £38m to build new wards in Norwich, which will serve people from West Norfolk too, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was given the good news that it will share £70m with the Norfolk and Norwich and James Paget University Hospitals to build a suite of diagnostic centres. The Queen Elizabeth also received an extra £470,000 to help it expand services for local people plus further funding to open 30 more beds.
But we have so much more we wish to do. I make no secret of my desire for more funding for our NHS so we can improve our buildings further, build better IT systems for our hospital and our wider health and care system and improve outcomes for our patients.
I’m proud of my primary care colleagues for doing their bit. GP practices are working together in “Primary Care Networks” to innovate better ways of supporting their patients, and very soon community mental health and nursing/therapy teams will be aligned to work alongside them. More of our local GP practices are offering online consultations as well as phone and face to face contact, and we are starting to introduce a new support service to help patients at some practices in West Norfolk to order repeat prescriptions.
So while the last decade has been difficult there is promise for the future. The changes taking place in the NHS and social care promise benefits from integration of services, for the first time we are encouraging professionals from the different strands of health and social care to work together in a spirit of co-operation on the ground and forming system partnerships across the county as a whole to better plan how investment is made and services provided. I think the quality of the management team we have established in the last few months bodes well for the future running of services in West Norfolk and the new primary care networks and the local delivery group are thriving since their creation.
You can play your part in helping local services to be the best that they can be. You have a responsibility to use the services wisely. The range of services available to you is wide with advice via the telephone and online services through local pharmacies, GP services, ambulance services and A&E services. Use the most appropriate for the type of problem you have to ensure we all get prompt attention from the right professional at the right time.