A ‘PUBLIC conversation’ needs to take place on the future of health care in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
That’s the verdict of Sue Harris communications and engagement lead for the Strategic and Transformation Plan (STP) which is swinging into action across the two counties.
Her comment is tacit recognition that, as outlined when the STP was launched in 2016, local health care could not continue at its current level of spending, and if it did it would be £229million in the red.
“When it was founded 70 years ago the NHS was about levelling out health inequalities, not about free health care for all,” she said.
“The question is, are we brave enough to target our resources on those who it will help the most?”
At the heart of the STP is a plan to improve people’s access to health care, cut hospital admissions, care for more people at home and plug the medical skills gap – and all within a tight budget.
Ms Harris said this would be done by organising health care by geography rather than institution – and no, people would not be expected to travel to Hereford for treatment.
Across Worcestershire GP surgeries are already being transformed into 14 Neighbourhood Teams, retaining their individuality but also able to pool resources where needed.
Based on findings that 42 per cent of patients attending a doctor’s appointment didn’t really need to see a GP, people will be offered a single point of access to a range of health experts, from GPs, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists to practice nurses and other specialists.
A small army of community nurses would care for people in their own homes rather than in hospital, and when their condition altered plans would be in place to deal with the change rather than them being ‘blue lighted’ to hospital.
This should reduce the number of hospital admissions – easing pressure on hospitals and cutting the annual multi-million debt that regularly saddles Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.
The system would be also flexible enough to deal with specific issues, ranging from support for care homes in Worcester to helping cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Redditch.
To cope with the national shortage of key specialists a range of ‘associate’ physicians and nurses would help plug the skills gap to support key medical staff.
“The NHS has never stood still and this is a step change in hearts and minds. It’s a chance to shape services, for a public conversation and that’s a debate I would like to have,” said Ms Harris.