That the NHS is in crisis is no secret, but the solution is about more than just money. Now people in Tyneside and Sunderland are being urged to take part in a discussion to ‘future-proof’ local services.
It is often said that the NHS is the closest thing Britain has to a national religion, but it’s becoming clear that it must go through a reformation if it is to survive.
In many ways, it is a victim of its own success. When it was formed in 1948, life expectancy was 66 for men and 71 for women. Today, those figures are 77.2 and 81.5. People are living longer with more health problems, and diseases such as obesity, diabetes type 2 and liver disease are on the rise.
Professor Martin J Vernon, national clinical director for older people and integrated care at NHS England, said the system needed to change if it was to be fit for the future.
“The NHS has up until now served us well,” he said. “Now it needs to rapidly adapt and change if it is to continue to care effectively and efficiently for a growing population of older people with complex conditions.”
In England alone, 16m people have one long-term condition, such as MS or diabetes, and 10m have two or more. Latest research shows one in two people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at in their lives. At the same time, advances in treatments means being drugs are becoming ever more expensive, and the staff needed to support people ever more specialised.
These are all challenges NHS England’s blueprint for change, the Five Year Forward View, are hoping to tackle with Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP). NHS trusts around the country are taking long hard looks at what they are doing, in a bid to realign services to better meet local needs. This is about making better use of the staff and facilities the NHS already has.
According to the South Tyneside and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trusts, services need to be “future proofed”. To do so, they have launched a public consultation on their own STP, called The Path to Excellence.
“To create a better future for the NHS, we all need to adapt and change the way we do things,” said Dr Shaz Wahid, Wahid, medical director for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.
“This doesn’t mean doing less for patients or reducing the quality of care. It means more preventative care, finding new ways to meet people’s needs and identifying ways to do things more efficiently with the resources we have.”
What's under review?
The plan focuses on stroke, maternity, gynaecology and children and young people’s services and aims to improve the quality of care being offered across Tyneside and Sunderland. Clinical services will be reviewed and plans on how to improve them formulated.
Dr Matthew Walmsey, a GP and chairman of NHS South CCG, said the proposals had been developed by local doctors, nurses themselves and a 14-week consultation had been planned to give residents the chance to discuss options for changing how local services could work better in the future.
“We want people to understand that we have clinical issues driving these proposals and that any future changes to the way services are organised would only be made to improve the quality and safety for the future,” he said.
“Any changes need to make the best use of our most important resource – our clinical staff – so we can meet the healthcare needs of our patients.”
Information on an independent travel impact review, current hospital service quality indicators, resources and finances will be published on the Path to Excellence website. A number of public events will be held across the area, and the team promises to listen to everyone’s concerns.
Dr Ian Pattison, also a GP and chairman of NHS Sunderland CCG, said: “This is a very important opportunity for local people to hear directly from their own local doctors, nurses and therapists. They are working in these services and understand the problems.
“People care passionately about our NHS, and we all have that in common. I hope that we can discuss these often complex issues together so we can make improvements that will have a real and lasting positive impact on people’s health outcomes.”
For more information on the consultation or to find out about events near you, go to www.pathtoexcellence.org.uk