'Underlying, compelling strategy' for future of healthcare in Northumberland

Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the system transformation board.
Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the system transformation board.

Plans to ensure the financial viability of Northumberland’s entire healthcare system are being looked at again and refocused.

The system transformation board, established in February last year, aims to help everyone involved in health – those responsible for ambulances, hospitals, GPs and social care – to work together ‘to achieve a financially stable system that has the capacity and capability to drive change’.

An update to the county council’s health and wellbeing board explained that the plan was to draw up an ‘underlying, compelling strategy that we can all sign up to’.

Siobhan Brown, the chief operating officer of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We know you can’t write a strategy in a room so the starting point for this will be going out to the public.”

David Shovlin, the CCG’s clinical director of primary care, said that the key is financial sustainability, with the update coming on the same day that it was revealed that the CCG is no longer rated as inadequate, although it is still running a substantial deficit.

However, as accountable officer Vanessa Bainbridge explained, while the CCG is in deficit, other providers are in surplus ‘so the argument is that the system is strong across the piece’.

Council leader Peter Jackson said that he was surprised that some of this work sounded new as he thought the partnership between health organisations and the council was well established.

Dr Shovlin explained that a lot of work had been done for the creation of an accountable care organisation (ACO) in Northumberland, which has now been put on hold indefinitely.

Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the system transformation board, said that there had been a number of different announcements by the Government and changes to funding pots, etc, so ‘it’s very prudent to take a step back and take stock’.

“We continue to take steps forward as a system,” he added. “If Northumberland’s system can’t do it then God help anyone else, because we are so far down the road in terms of working together.”

David Thompson, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland, said: “It seems that priority is being given to communication and engagement with the public – in the past, it’s not always been there.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service