Monday, 15 September 2014

Time for an open debate on the future of health and care

In a recent HSJ article, Sir John Oldham was reported as calling on politicians to immediately begin a public debate on the future of funding for health and care services.  To turn up the volume to very loud, there has this week been an unprecedented coming together of health leaders booming for this debate to take place now, in support of the 2015 Challenge Manifesto.

Sir John led an independent commission on whole person care for the Labour Party, which was published in February this year. One of its recommendations was the commissioning of an “independent national conversation”, backed by all political parties that would “recognise the need for a longer term agreement with the people of the country on what health and social care should be, how and where it is delivered, and how it should be paid for”.

The debate has been sparked further by Kate Barker who recently published a report as part of the King’s Fund commission on the future of health and social care, calling for a major expansion of free social care and for councils’ care budgets to be pooled with a “significant” proportion of the NHS budget.

HSJ quoted Sir John as saying: “[the debate] should start now. There’s been enough consensus [about the funding problem].

“We need to make decisions that inevitably this side of an election politicians will be reluctant to [make]. But we need to start that conversation.”

While I wholeheartedly agree with Sir John Oldham's comments, and with the whole person care commission which is informing our strategy, I wonder if he heard the echo of his words after he made his comments? 

I don't think politicians are going to start this debate, however I think the public would welcome it.  They know we have financial challenges and are intelligent and responsible enough to help political leaders make informed judgements on how to address this growing problem. 

Large scale reorganisation to create health and social care organisations would become the project for the next two to five years. The project for the next decade needs to be care outside of hospital, psychologically minded care (vastly underestimated) and promoting self-care and behaviour change in how health is provided. 

This will need driving by policies that act as incentives for care in the community and boldly state hospitals are not health, health is in the communities, some of whom on occasion need hospital care. 

The approach in Tameside is the closest I have seen that is trying to create an integrated care organisation. The initiative is very positive, bold and aims to focus on care outside of hospital and achieve an affordable, coherent health and social care offer. In reality, I still think this will be a number of partners working together under the umbrella of an Integrated Care Organisation (ICO).  

Achieving one clean organisation will be challenging and I believe will always require partners who can make a particular contribution in the mix somewhere. However, initiatives like this should be applauded for taking an open and transparent approach to tackling national issues at a local level. 

However, as I said at the beginning, this debate should be happening at a national and political level.  My concern without the national debate is that we will drift into making reorganisation the goal, and if we do that becomes the project.  

You can shuffle the deck chairs of management but you won't get real change until we steer a very different course for health and social care for the coming decade.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Thank you et Merci Beaucoup

Since I launched my blog back in April, I'm pleased to say that it has now received more than 5,700 views.  Whether that’s a glance through, a thorough read, received well or otherwise - a big thank you for taking the time to read it.

I hope my posts are helpful, especially for staff to keep in touch with my thoughts and where we are up to with current challenges and developments within the Trust.   

I have had mostly very positive feedback on the blog, from emails, comments posted on the blog, twitter and even a chat by the water cooler.  All feedback is welcome and I hope it encourages discussion within teams.

There has only been one or two negative comments, these are still welcome, we can only lead effectively if we hear the good and the not so good.  

These are challenging times and we are having to make changes, save money and at times make redundancies.  I know this can make it difficult and add pressure at work, I am aware of it and one of our strategic goals is for Pennine Care to be a great place to work.  

But as well as talking about these issues on my blog, I also want to use it as a way of highlighting the good work that I see happening around the Trust every day.  Despite the challenges, we mustn't forget to celebrate success.    

I am still really keen to hear your thoughts about the blog - either post a comment, send me a Tweet or email. 


The use of French within this post is my seamless link to talk about the roll out of PARIS, our new digital care record system.  Given we are going through organisational change, pretty much constantly somewhere in the Trust, I am so impressed with how staff have received the new system. 

Despite busy jobs, service changes and increasing demands, when I have met teams everyone has been committed to making the new system work. I think that’s because everyone knows it will improve patient care and ultimately how we work to deliver care. There have been some challenges, glitches and things we haven’t got right and staff have told me when I have visited. We need to hear when things aren't working so we can fix it and learn from it.

I just wanted to say thank you, or merci beaucoup, to all our staff on implementing the new system and for being so welcoming when I have come out to meet teams as they get to grips with the new system.  It's great to see large paper files being closed and consigned to the archives. The system will improve care, provide a platform for mobile working, but it will also surely save thousands upon thousands as we become a paper-light organisation.

Finally, I was really tickled to hear how the Community Mental Health Team at Sudden Resource Centre had launched PARIS in their service. I understand the office was aromatic with the smell of coffee, staff wore stripy Parisian tops, strings of onions around their necks and no doubt one or two "Allo Allo" style accents here and there (younger staff may want to Google Allo Allo or tune into Gold on your TV!). Well done to the team - I’m on the lookout for photographs of your first day with PARIS!