Weekend Diagnosis: Transferring services into people’s communities

21 October 2015

Mairead McAlindenThis Weekend Diagnosis is from Mairead McAlinden, our Chief Executive

We’re three weeks into bringing two large trusts together to create the new integrated care organisation and I’m hoping that during this transition you wouldn’t haven’t noticed much difference – meaning if you have needed health or care support during this time you will have experienced the same high quality service you would have done previously.

This was the first step in realising the longer-term ambition. The plans ahead of us are radical and will begin to take shape over the next 12 months. This sort of change cannot happen overnight. It’s going to take time and requires a complete shift in how all of us perceive what we want or need – 95 per cent of health and social care needs can be safely met within locality based services. This means that we need to transfer services out of the district hospital and into people’s communities. This is no easy task and any transformation must support a person’s total wellbeing not just their ‘ailments’. So how are we going to do this?

Local people, patients and carers need their voice heard in order to help shape those plans and be actively involved in the decisions that affect how they live. It’s important for us to support people to be ‘the expert by experience’ and listen to what you say. We will also need to change our focus from ‘what is the matter with you’ to ‘what matters to you’.

It will require health and care teams, working with GPs, community and voluntary sector, mental health and public health partners to further develop care that helps to avoid crisis points – but with specialised, responsive hospital services available when they are absolutely necessary. However, a stay in hospital should not be the only choice – the best bed is your own bed so where medically appropriate care should be provided at, or as close to home as possible.

It’s also important to recognise that living well cannot be achieved through healthcare interventions alone. We know that if people feel secure and supported with strong, meaningful social networks their wellbeing is greatly improved. Loneliness and isolation are the biggest issues that need tackling and we are committed to working with our local community and voluntary sector partners to develop resilient ‘communities that care’.

Technology can enable better care, communication and support so we are going to be embracing the right technologies that will empower patients to take more control and ownership of their care. Patients should only have to tell their story once and through technology we can ensure that all health and care professionals have the same information and can talk to and share with each other more easily.

There is a lot to do and to get right. Thankfully, we have a good base to build upon. In a number of areas this is already happening and working well – for example musculoskeletal, care of the elderly and heart failure services. The next step will be to ensure that this level of joined-up care is consistent across all geographical areas and making sure that access is fair and equal to all.

The future of what health and care should look like was informed by what local people, patients and carers have told us but the journey doesn’t stop there. We need you to continue to be involved. Why not become a member of the Trust and have your voice heard? You can find out more at www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk or telephone 01803 655705.


Weekend Diagnosis a fortnightly column published in the Herald Express discussing local health and care issues.

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