22 Jan 2020

Professor Sarah O'Brien, our Clinical Accountable Officer shares her monthly blog and reflects on the urgent care system, the future of health and social care in Cheshire and Merseyside and what we are doing to 'grow our own' workforce.

Welcome everyone to the first of my blogs for 2020. I hope you all had a good Christmas period and new year.  We’re now well into the month of January and it will come as no surprise to you that the urgent care system was extremely busy over the Christmas and New Year period and continues to see and treat high numbers of people. 

We are working very closely as a system to make sure that all our patients receive safe and effective care and thank you to all our staff on the ground who frequently go above and beyond. Without some of our community services in place working really hard to keep people from being admitted to hospital and get people home quickly and safely who are, I would hate to think how much worse the situation could be.  An example of this is our St Helens integrated falls team who are working really effectively – this has resulted downward trend in the numbers of falls patients admitted to hospital.

Our St Helens Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC)  is now under the management of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who run the A&E at Whiston Hospital and while it’s early days, it is pleasing to see the managers on the ground supporting staff and I hope that this joining up of acute and community services will begin to have an impact on A&E attendances.  Please remember that A&E is the very last port of call – and our staff at the UTC are highly skilled to deal with urgent but non-life-threatening illness and injuries.

2020 is already shaping up to be a big year in terms of challenges – not least for the CCG.  NHS England is about to publish their new operational planning guidance and have acknowledged at meetings that I’ve attended that there just aren’t enough hospital beds in England – something that is a big shift from their previous stance.  They maintain that integration and collaboration is very much the way forward to tackle all the health and social care issues – something we have been doing in St Helens and will continue to do.  Going forward, we’ll be focusing more on our neighbourhoods – our four  ‘localities’ and wrapping health and care services around people who live in those areas, working jointly together with pooled budgets, keeping people out of hospital.

Also on a Cheshire and Merseyside scale, our health and care partnership will move towards becoming an integrated care system (an ICS - something you may have heard about in the media) by April 2021 made up of all the ‘places’ in the region working on the key priorities of the NHS Long Term Plan such as cancer waits and prevention, diabetes, mental health, outpatient transformation etc.  As part of this shift, all 9 CCGs in Cheshire and Merseyside may be coming together to form three larger CCGs – one in Cheshire, one in north Mersey and one in mid Mersey which we will be part of.  It’s very early days and our GPs have to be involved in this process and agree with this but we need to be doing this by April 2021 and be leading this process rather than having it ‘done’ to us.  However, around 80% of all the work we do will still be done be at ‘place’ level in St Helens and St Helens Cares is leading the way in the region in terms of how we do this successfully and collaboratively.

In short, it’s exciting times to be working in health and social care and I’m really pleased with our efforts to engage with our young people in the borough and help them aspire to careers in this sector in St Helens in the future.  Next month I have three year 11 students who want to study medicine after school shadowing me and we have had the first of our Edge Hill foundation year medics spending time at the CCG as part of the ‘widening access to medicine’ programme.  Next on our list is planning and delivering a social work event to encourage students to be inspired by that as a career choice in the future and ‘grow our own’ workforce.

We’ll keep everyone posted as things progress but rest assured, the future is bright and I thank everyone for supporting us along the way.