Over the past two years much attention has been focused on the Government’s efforts to renew the NHS, to bring it back to its founding principles of doctor and nurse led compassionate care. Progress has been made. This week it has been confirmed that there are now 7,000 fewer managers and 7,000 more frontline staff working in the NHS than there were in May 2010.
Running alongside this refocusing is another important part of the process of renewal that often goes unreported; the recognition that the medical frontline extends beyond hospitals and GPs surgeries, into people’s homes. Health and Care commissioning is increasingly being directed around the understanding that if different organisations work together to enable people’s wellbeing at home, many health problems cannot just be better treated, but can be prevented from developing at all.
The Draft Care and Support Bill, published last summer, enshrines this preventative principle in law. The Bill stipulates that all local authority care decisions should abide by a golden rule- that the promotion of an individual’s wellbeing is paramount. A further clause places a legal requirement on local authorities to integrate their social care and other community functions with NHS services.
The Draft Bill has now been scrutinised and praised for its focus on integrating services to promote wellbeing. A key suggestion is that commissioning rules should be changed to make it easier for NHS services and local authorities to have joint budgets. Ministers are now closely considering these recommendations before taking the Draft Bill onto the next stage.
As new legislation takes shape in Westminster, here in Cornwall we are already seeing the preventive approach to health and social care making a real difference. Changing Lives is a project that has brought the NHS, Cornwall Council, Age UK, Volunteer Cornwall and Peninsula Community Health together to work on joined-up services to improve people’s wellbeing. Early pathfinders run by the project are delivering exciting results, demonstrably improving the quality of life of vulnerable individuals and significantly reducing unplanned hospital admissions.
Good work is also being done by a new body established the Government – the Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Board. Representatives from Cornwall Council, the NHS, the Police and the local voluntary sector sit on the Board and work together to develop joint strategies to improve the health of local people. Actions planned by the Board cover a range of areas, from encouraging people to stay active to tackling fuel poverty.
If we are to build on this success it is essential that we elect the team of Cornwall Councillors who can use the 6% increase in Cornish NHS funding secured by my colleagues and I to positively drive forward improvements.
What more important goal could the new Cornwall Council have than working constructively with all those that are working hard, re-establishing for the twenty first century the founding NHS principle of free, compassionate care, delivered in the community and shaped around the needs of individuals and their families.