Funding boost of £8.3m for NHS in Northumberland

Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital'Picture by Jane Coltman
Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital'Picture by Jane Coltman
  • County was named a vanguard site in March this year
  • Ambition to bring health and social care under one umbrella
  • Patients will benefit from better access to care all week

The NHS in Northumberland is to benefit from an £8.3million cash injection over the next two years, it was announced today, after the county was selected to pioneer models of health and social care for the future.

NHS England has today announced funding for eight areas across England, already confirmed as vanguard sites, which will each benefit from a programme of support and investment from a national transformation fund set up to help deliver the vision outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

We now have a unique opportunity to work together, with the entire system, to design joined-up services which are truly built around patient needs

Dr Alistair Blair, chief clinical officer at NHS Northumberland CCG

Northumberland was named a vanguard site in March this year and work is being driven by lead partners Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), working with Northumberland County Council, local GPs, mental-health services and the ambulance service. Local people and Northumberland Healthwatch will also be involved from the outset.

Collectively serving a population of more than 320,000 people across one of the largest geographical and most rural areas of England, the Northumberland vanguard will build on successful work undertaken over many years to integrate health and social care across the county.

The collective ambition is to create a single ‘accountable care organisation’ (ACO) for the whole of Northumberland from 2017. This would bring together health and social-care partners and, for the first time, combine general practice and primary care with hospital, community, adult social care and mental-health services without the organisational boundaries which have historically prevented real transformation in care.

This will bring many benefits for patients, including: better access to care seven days a week – both for serious emergencies and for primary care services such as GP appointments; better use of technology to empower people to take control of their own health and wellbeing, live independently at home and stay healthy; care delivered by an aligned, integrated workforce, operating as one team, in one system with joined-up IT systems and processes; one unified patient record, reducing the need for patients to repeat their story to different health professionals and different parts of the system.

To achieve this ambition, healthcare leaders in Northumberland have identified three important phases of work, many of which are now well underway.

The opening of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in June marked the first phase of work and means specialists are now available seven days a week to help save lives and improve outcomes for those suffering serious emergencies. At the same time, changes were made at general hospitals to create 24/7 walk-in services for access to urgent care with improvements also underway to enhance privacy and dignity for patients attending for planned diagnostic tests, procedures and operations, as well as ongoing rehabilitative inpatient care.

The second and third phases will see the creation of primary care hubs across Northumberland to deliver enhanced seven-day access to primary care. This will involve more GP practices coming together to work in networks to improve access to services during working hours, in the evenings and at weekends. This will be designed to support currently stretched GP services and it is not about asking current GPs to work longer and or harder.

At the same time, work will be done to deliver more care in community settings and at home. This will involve expanding and developing the frontline workforce so that different healthcare professionals can deliver care from GP practices and community teams, supporting the current primary-care teams and thereby allowing GPs to spend more time caring for more complex patients. There will also be a big focus on maximising the use of technology so that patients can take control of their own health and wellbeing and supporting mental health, pharmacy and community paramedic teams to allow a greater focus on prevention and independence.

Health and social care organisations in Northumberland already have a strong track record of working together to deliver joined up care for patients. The county is at the forefront of delivering integrated health and social care with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust the provider of all hospital, community and adult social care services across the county through a unique arrangement with the local authority.

Dr Alistair Blair, chief clinical officer at NHS Northumberland CCG, said: “Today’s funding announcement is fantastic news and means we can now move forward with the development of new models of care in Northumberland that will enhance patient outcomes and experiences.

“The opening of the new Northumbria hospital marked an important first milestone in building our seven-day services model and we now have a unique opportunity to work together, with the entire system, to design joined-up services which are truly built around patient needs.

“This will see a big investment in primary care to create seven-day access, maximising the use of technology to support patients at home and breaking down the organisational barriers that have historically prevented any real transformation in care.”

Jim Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This funding is excellent news and means in years to come patients will see a real difference in the coordination of their care. We already have a really good history of working together in Northumberland and welcome this opportunity to further integrate health and social care to create services which are fit for the changing needs of our ageing population and the challenges facing the NHS.

“Involving the public, patients and staff as part of this work will be vital so that we can truly understand experiences of care from their perspective. This will allow us to remove some of the frustrations that we know exist when people are moving through different parts of the health and social care system which at times can be disjointed. We look forward to engaging with all partners as this work begins.”

Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the health and wellbeing board in Northumberland, said: “This is very welcome news for the county and a result of the very strong partnership working that already exists to provide seamless care for our patients.

“We are already leading the way in specialist emergency care with full seven-day services now available at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital and this funding means we can now really develop primary care and make sure patients have access to GP services seven days a week.

“Organisations working together as one without any boundaries makes absolute sense and means we can make sure patients get the right care, in the right place, when they need it most and also support our local communities to live healthier lives.”

The NHS in Northumberland is now gearing up for a programme of widespread engagement in the months ahead. Healthcare leaders will be seeking the involvement of local GPs, doctors, nurses and other clinicians, as well as patients and the public, as work begins to co-design a healthcare system which is built around patient needs and future-proofed for years to come.