£4.29m funding for Northumberland as county leads the way for future NHS

The integrated care team in Blyth: Community Matron Lyn Darling, Blyth GP Dr Nicky Shiell and Dr Wasim Baqir, lead clinical pharmacist for the vanguard programme in Northumberland. Picture by Gavin Duthie

The integrated care team in Blyth: Community Matron Lyn Darling, Blyth GP Dr Nicky Shiell and Dr Wasim Baqir, lead clinical pharmacist for the vanguard programme in Northumberland. Picture by Gavin Duthie

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The NHS in Northumberland has been awarded £4.29million of funding as part of its vanguard programme to integrate health and social care services across the county.

The NHS England funding for 2017/18 will allow the pioneering work taking place in Northumberland to be scaled up and shared across the country.

In March last year, Northumberland was one of only eight areas across the country chosen to take a national lead on transforming care for patients as part of the national vision for the future of the NHS.  

Known as the vanguard programme, the work to deliver an integrated primary and acute care system (PACS) has already delivered notable improvements in patient care including the transforming of emergency care, wide scale public engagement in service redesign, improved GP access, a shared health record and new workforce models.

From April 2017 and subject to final approval in the New Year, health and care partners in Northumberland are set to form England’s first accountable care organisation (ACO), building on successful work over many years to join up services.

The ACO for Northumberland will be the first of its kind in the whole NHS and is a partnership between both providers and commissioners of local NHS services, including Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, primary care services, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

The ACO will also include commissioners of NHS services with a shared support structure already in place, in shadow form, between Northumberland County Council and NHS Northumberland CCG. This pioneering approach will maximise the opportunities for an integrated, strategic commissioning approach across NHS services, social care and public health.

The new way of working in Northumberland aims to create a much more sustainable NHS for the future by breaking down organisational barriers and joining up services for patients. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust will be the host provider of the new partnership.

To help people understand more about the new ACO partnership in Northumberland, public engagement events are being held in January.

Supported by Healthwatch Northumberland, they will be:

Tuesday, January 10: Hexham Community Centre, 2pm-4pm.

Thursday, January 12: Blyth Community Enterprise Centre, 10am-noon; Northumberland CVA, Ashington, 2pm-4pm.

Friday, January 13: Bell View Resource Centre, Belford, 10am-noon.

Local GP Dr Alistair Blair, who has been at the forefront of the vanguard programme, said: “In Northumberland we’re well ahead in terms of joining up different parts of our health and care system and we’ve already delivered some major innovations.

“The transformation of emergency care, despite some of the teething challenges at The Northumbria, is already having a very positive impact not only on patient care, outcomes and experiences, but also on the efficiency of our system as a whole.

“We now need to build on these achievements and really focus our collective efforts on supporting people to stay healthy and well. The development of an ACO will allow us to do just that and will be a major step forward in helping us to proactively address some of the really big challenges facing the NHS.”

David Evans, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The ACO development represents new territory for the entire NHS and means, for the first time, all health and care organisations will be around the top table to discuss and agree, as strategic partners, how best to invest in patient care and develop services.

“Nowhere else in the country is doing this and it is testament to the strong, positive relationships that exist right across our system that we are so far ahead.

“Our vanguard work is critical to the successful delivery of the ambitions outlined in both the NHS Five Year Forward View and the sustainability and transformation planning which has been taking place right across the NHS. All of this work fits together and is focussed on three simple things: Improving the healthcare people receive; preventing ill health; and making sure the NHS operates as efficiently as possible, both now and in the future.”

Cynthia Atkin, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland, said: “It is important that people understand more about the ACO for Northumberland and how this fits with the draft sustainability and transformation plan for the region. We very much welcome these engagement events and the opportunity for Healthwatch to be involved.

“The work which has been taking place as part of the vanguard programme has been very welcome and is making sure that as a county, our health and care services are once again at the forefront.”

Samantha Jones, director of the New Care Models programme at NHS England, said: “The vanguards are making great progress and have already made a tangible impact on the lives of patients and the working lives of staff. 2017/18 is a crucial year for the vanguards, in particular how we further spread their work across the wider NHS and care services. This funding, as well as the support we offer to them, will help them to continue to move at pace.”