The NHS has been one of the topics debated frequently during the election campaign and references were frequently made to the dedication of the staff who work in the service. I was pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the judging of the nominations for star awards of individuals and teams of staff made by their colleagues working in the East Lancs Hospitals Trust. The awards evening was a splendid affair and a fitting celebration of the contribution so many people make as the trust endeavours to deliver high quality care which is safe, personal and effective. The descriptions of work done by doctors, nurses and support staff demonstrated how the care of patients is enhanced when people use their imagination and initiative and are personally committed to helping people who are sick. It was a privilege to present one of the awards and get the chance to talk to people about their work.
The spotlight has also fallen on services for people who suffer mental ill health. Our local provider of mental health services, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, has had a visit from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who at the end of April sent a large team of inspectors to assess the quality of services provided by the organisation. I attended a meeting with some of the inspectors and was able to talk about how we as commissioners worked with the trust and, along with Healthwatch, comment on what we know about the views of patients and their families. I had met with some parents of people with autism and other conditions just before seeing the CQC and so had some first-hand information about the difficulties people still face especially when transferring from young people to adult services. The report is expected in a few weeks’ time.
From 1 April our CCG has been able to co commission some primary care GP services under a delegation agreement with NHS England. This means that we will have more influence over our member GP practices. We have set up a new committee to oversee this task, which will meet in public and will have representation from the Council and Healthwatch. One of the issues to be given attention is the need to make sure we have enough GPs to meet the needs of our population. A challenge which is faced by ourselves, the hospital and council is how to attract people to come to work and live in the area. This is something that I mentioned at a meeting of the local public service board suggesting that we could have a common description of our town and what it offers. As might be expected the board includes representatives from all the major public services including the police. I went to an event at King George’s Hall at which the police celebrated the strength and success of their volunteer cadet scheme. The scheme is open to 13 to 18 year olds living in Lancashire; 25% of whom should be from a vulnerable background. Cadets get involved in an array of projects and are inspired to participate positively in their communities. The aim is to have 650 cadets in the next year. During the evening examples were given of the work cadets had done demonstrating how this helped improve the well-being of others.
Our health and well-being board has been thinking about housing and health, recognising that where we live has an impact on our whole life. The problem could be a house which is damp and poorly insulated, one which is too small, or too large, one which is unsuitable and difficult to manage as we grow older and more infirm. There is also an obvious link with the issue mentioned above of getting people to come to live in the borough. The problems are different in our various neighbourhoods but as our doctors and general practice staff get more involved in locality teams I expect ideas will emerge about how we might contribute to improving things for patients and their families. Early indications from our integration initiative are positive both in terms of reducing admissions to hospital and people feeling better about themselves and their prospects. I hope we will be able to share some of the patient stories in the coming months.