Weekend Diagnosis: Our Shared Vision, Working Together ‘With You, For You’

13 April 2016

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

In my previous column I wrote about the ‘One You’ campaign, which is a really good example of how we are working in partnership to support local people to ‘live their life to the full’. I firmly believe that working together with local people and the other public bodies that serve them is how our shared vision will become a reality.

Our vision is a community where we are all supported and empowered to be as well and as independent as possible, able to manage our own health and wellbeing, in our own homes. When we need care we have choice about how our needs are met, only having to tell our story once

Here in Torbay we have an international reputation for our pioneering ‘integrated care’ model in which adult social care and health services are delivered by local teams working in a ‘joined up’ way. Our new Integrated Care Organisation, launched in October, now brings Torbay Hospital and these local community-based health and social care services into a single provider Trust. We want to extend this integration to include a more joined up way of working with local voluntary and charitable organisations, and with our partners in other public services such as mental health and children’s social care. We also plan to work more closely with our Councils, Police and Fire Services on the issues that can affect your wellbeing – such as housing, education and personal safety.

This may sound obvious – and you may ask why this is not already being done. The answer is that it is happening in some services and in some places, and is making a real difference. For example, we are making excellent progress in bringing together adult and children’s health and social care services through the Social Work Innovation Fund Torbay (SWIFT) project. Through this project, which is being led by Torbay Council, all the agencies supporting children and families have come together to join up the planning and delivery of services. One part of this project is the development of Early Help Hubs, where GPs and Trust health and social care staff work with other community partners including the voluntary sector and also schools, to provide services ‘on prescription’ for families. The first Early Help Hub was launched in Brixham in March, and as more are developed they will offer families with children greater opportunities for truly joined up working. They are a good example of our commitment to find ways to work together across organisation boundaries to provide care around what matters to people and their families. Through SWIFT we are also setting up a Public Services Trust to allow key public and voluntary sector partners to pool funds and jointly commission services that will help children and families with some of their key needs around issues such as mental health and domestic abuse. All of this is being made possible thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of families themselves as well as the staff across our partner organisations – you can find further information at Swiftorbay.org.uk.

We want to take this good practice and make it happen everywhere, benefiting everyone living in Torbay and South Devon; but it takes a lot of work, commitment, and being prepared to share risk and resources. If it was easy, it would already be done – but I believe that if it can succeed anywhere it is here. We are a caring community, built on a community that really cares about local people. Every day I see people working in public services who go well beyond the day job, and the many local people who generously volunteer their time and expertise to help their community. We owe them all our respect and gratitude – they make Torbay and South Devon a special place to live and work.

So we just need to harness all this commitment and good will and bring it together, and we are determined to do just that! We are investing £177,000 in local voluntary organisations to employ Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinators in each local area and they will be in post in a few months. Their job will be to work with local people on ‘what matters to me’ instead of ‘what’s the matter with me,’ and to help them to connect with the support and activities in their local community. I will be bringing you some personal stories about the difference this is making soon.

This is just one example of how we are working in partnership and doing things differently, there are many others and much more is planned. It is challenging to do, we need to trust each other and to be prepared to take risks to achieve our shared vision.

Despite the many pressures on public services, or maybe because these pressures are so great, there is a real passion and commitment across our local public and voluntary sector to working in a more joined up way. We recently met with our partners at an event called “Our Shared Vision of Health and Care in Torbay and South Devon.” Over 40 people attended, representing our locally elected MPs and Councillors, senior Council officers, GPs, voluntary groups, health and social care organisations, Education, Ambulance and Fire services, and many others. They openly shared their views on what they need from us and what they have to offer to help make improvements in the health and wellbeing of local people. We are now taking these ideas and making them into partnership plans.

Barack Obama said “Change is never easy, but always possible.” I believe that by working together, we can change for the better. I hope you will see and experience this change and help us to achieve it. Thank you for your support.


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

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