12 million people to benefit from better joined up NHS and social care work

Over 12 million people will soon benefit from better joined up NHS and social care as four more areas, covering four and a half million extra people, are today (Thurs) given more control to improve local services.

NHS England chief Simon Stevens and Ian Dalton, head of NHS Improvement, have called on the NHS to ‘supercharge’ integration as Gloucestershire, West Yorkshire and Harrogate, Suffolk and North East Essex and North Cumbria will join the ten areas already part of the integrated care development programme.

The ten existing areas, covering around seven million people already, have seen improvements to A&E performance, cancer treatment times and waits for operations at the same time as they have taken decisive steps to strengthen general practice and join it up with hospitals and mental health professionals.

The four new systems today receive a vote of confidence in strong local leadership, partnership working and ambitious plans to strengthen primary care and integrate services for the benefit of local communities, at the first meeting of NHS England and NHS Improvement boards sitting ‘in common’.

NHS England chief Simon Stevens said: “As the NHS turns 70, we’re keeping all that works best about the local health service,  while pressing ahead with the move to more integrated care. These fundamental reforms mean more than 12 million people across England will now begin to see the benefits of joined up care between GPs, home care and care homes, hospitals and mental health services.”

Ian Dalton, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement, said: “We have seen real progress in how NHS organisations have been collaborating with each other and with local government and local partners since integrated care systems were first introduced a year ago.

“Integrated care systems will be vital in tackling the factors that affect the long-term sustainability of patient services – many of which cross organisational boundaries.

“I am delighted we are rolling out these systems to four more areas of the country. They all demonstrate strong leadership teams, capable of acting collectively, and with an appetite for taking responsibility for their own performance for the benefit of the communities they serve.”

The drive for integrated care comes as the NHS nears its 70th birthday, recognising that the health service no longer principally deals with people in need of one-off treatments as it did in 1948.

Today, people are living longer and one in three patients admitted to hospital as an emergency has five or more health conditions, up from one in ten a decade ago. One in four of us will experience a mental health condition during our lives, often alongside other physical health problems.

In an integrated care system NHS organisations and local government, together with residents, Healthwatch, care providers and the voluntary and community sector work beyond their own organisational boundaries to improve services for their communities, join up services for people with multiple and long-term conditions, and help people stay as healthy as possible.

Partnership working in Gloucestershire over the last year has encouraged an extra 63 schools and 11,000 pupils to walk or jog ‘the Daily Mile,’ led to 40,000 more GP surgery appointments, improvements in A&E performance, a reduction in cancelled operations and a reduction in the percentage of patients stuck unnecessarily in a hospital bed to 2 percent.

In North Cumbria, GPs are working differently with consultants to reduce patients making unnecessary trips to hospital, there is much closer working between adult social care, GPs and community services to support patients closer to home, and there are well developed plans for the next phase of a £30 million redevelopment of the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and plans to build a new £30 million cancer centre in Carlisle.

In West Yorkshire & Harrogate, the Partnership will be rolling out best practice care for people with atrial fibrillation in every GP practice, preventing over 190 strokes over the next three years and saving £2.5m. Its Cancer Alliance is investing £11.5m to speed up cancer diagnosis including rolling-out a scheme to diagnose people with vague but concerning symptoms.

A new £13m Child and Adolescent Mental Health unit for Leeds will prevent young people having to travel out of the area for treatment.  The partnership also aims to recruit 150 new GPs every year supported by £75m investment by 2021 and it has a real community emphasis, for example aiming to better support its 260,000 carers.

Changes to the way GP practices work together has already led to 300 extra appointments available every week for local people across Suffolk and North East Essex.  Together with a £69 million investment to support the merger of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, and a total of £18m to develop local hospital based services in Clacton and Harwich, local people can expect to see improvements in the way community services are provided.  These have proven to successfully slow emergency hospitalisations growth.

These systems will benefit from additional central funding to support the improvements they are making to services, as well as greater freedom and flexibility to make decisions over how the health system in their area operates.