New networks of GP surgeries, set to launch this summer, are one example of how the NHS Long-Term Plan will be put into practice in Northumberland.
The idea is that these Primary Care Networks, serving around 30,000 to 50,000 patients, would be able to pool resources to provide or share additional services and staff.
They would be ‘small enough to still offer personalised care, but large enough to get economies of scale’, explained Siobhan Brown, chief operating officer for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at Thursday’s (February 14) meeting of the county council’s health and wellbeing board.
She gave this working example of the GP networks as she provided members with a brief overview of the NHS Long-Term Plan (LTP), with one of the themes running through it being ‘dissolving boundaries’, be that appointing other specialisms in primary care, between physical and mental health, or health and social care.
The 136-page document, published last month, is a blueprint for the direction of the health service over the next 10 years and was a condition of the extra £20billion a year by 2023 announced by the Prime Minister last June.
This includes £4.5billion a year for primary and community health as well as £2.3billion for mental healthcare.
However, it was noted that this is a plan for the NHS, so health and council bosses will only get the full picture for the entire system following the forthcoming Spending Review and the delayed Green Paper on social care, now due in the autumn.
The LTP has three main goals, which align well with Northumberland’s aims as set out in the recently finalised Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
They are: Making sure everyone gets the best start in life; Delivering world-class care for major health problems; Supporting people to age well.
In addition, the LTP sets out how the system needs to think and act in order to deliver against the challenges it faces, by doing things differently, preventing illness and tackling inequalities, backing the workforce, making better use of data and digital technology, and getting the most out of taxpayers’ money.
Coun Scott Dickinson was concerned about Northumberland’s share of the £20billion, based on past experiences, as well as what would be revealed in the Spending Review.
But Ms Brown said: “I get your funding issues and we will chase every penny we can and invest it in the front-line, but the bigger issue is making sure we have the right model for Northumberland.”
Dr David Shovlin, a Hexham GP and the CCG’s clinical director of primary care, added: “Finance has been the one thing that has prevented us from putting all the good talk into practice over the years, so this is a really welcome commitment.”
David Thompson, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland, said that engagement with both staff and the wider community was crucial.
“There’s a natural suspicion that any change is to save money,” he added. “We need to get the message across that it’s a well-intentioned change of direction.”
The board’s chairman, Coun Richard Dodd, welcomed ‘talking about recruitment not cutting’, adding: “It’s nice to feel that after the pain we went through in the past, we might now be moving forward.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service