I recently attended a listening event, one of a series, which the hospital trust (East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust) organised for its stakeholders. The format is that the Chair, Chief Executive and other leaders from the Trust make short presentations and then those present have the opportunity to ask questions or make comments or suggestions.
We heard from the Trust about their financial problems and indeed, if you look at the Trust website and read the blogs posted there you will see that efforts are underway to improve the financial position. However, the hospital is part of a wider system that we call the health and social care economy. There is recognition that there is a sum of money available to be spent locally. Commissioners invest in some services and not in others but those changes need to be planned so that organisations do not create difficulty for each other. This requires sharing of plans and information as well as trust between those leading the organisations. All present agreed that we had to create the conditions for a sustainable system that will mean doing some things differently from the way we do them now.
One example given by Dr John Dean from the Trust, described proposals to change the Acute Medical Service by increasing the length of time people spend in the assessment process. This will lead to better assessments, fewer admissions into other wards — but these being the right ward for the patient, more discharges straight to home and better outcomes for patients as they will have fewer internal moves in the hospital and thus a greater coordination and continuity of care.
Dr Damien Riley also spoke in his new role as Medical Director. He told us he had worked as a GP for many years and so wanted to see improved working relationships between medical staff in the hospital and those based in the community.
What also struck me at this event was the number of people from Blackburn with Darwen who offered comments and suggestions. These included comments from elected members and staff from the local authority and from the third sector, which I think demonstrates the extent to which we are already engaged in partnerships.
The Health and Wellbeing Board held one of its informal meetings on 21 July. Included on the agenda was a draft of the new joint health and wellbeing strategy and how the new themes of start well, live well and age well will be reflected in the work of those with responsibility to oversee the implementation of the strategy.
The meeting was held on the same day that the Government talked about the Spending Review which is now underway and the expectation that departments will put forward plans for reductions in expenditure. The details will not be known until November but our strategy must take account of the likely impact of the Review on the resources we will have available to us between now and 2020.
What was clear from the discussions is that there is a desire to cooperate and collaborate ever more closely . This is required both within Blackburn with Darwen but also across what is described as Pennine Lancashire.
At the stakeholder meeting described above there was representation from Pennine Lancashire (which is the combined area of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale and the Ribble Valley). There is agreement that we are collectively responsible for commissioning and delivering health and social care services.
I think that if we put into action the intentions we have to work more as partners then there will be more cooperation and collaboration between staff from different organisations.
We do our work on behalf of the public and want to involve as many people as possible in our planning and our search for some common incentives. The citizens of Blackburn with Darwen can expect to be involved in discussions later this year about proposed changes which are designed to make sure we have effective and sustainable health and social care services.