Last week’s revelations about the NHS showed one thing very clearly – our health services suffer when concerns expressed by patients and staff are not taken seriously.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh’s review investigated fourteen hospitals, and found that none of them were providing consistently high quality care to patients. He found that problems with care were frequently not the fault of frontline clinical staff, but arose from management structures that failed to act on concerning reports, and refused to learn from past mistakes.
I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has now put in place a rigorous new hospital inspection regime with a focus on transparency. From now on you and I will be able to see how feedback from NHS patients and clinical staff has been acted on, and what improvements were made a result.
I will continue to work with all parts of the NHS in Cornwall as this new focus on transparency takes effect. I also continue to meet regularly with nursing union representatives and hospital managers to monitor progress recruiting more trained staff to ensure that staffing levels are safe. This remains a crucial issue for the NHS in Cornwall.
As well as acting on failings in care, we should also celebrate when first class care takes place. In Cornwall innovative work is being done to integrate health and social care. A range of organisations, including Age UK in Cornwall, Cornwall Council, NHS Cornwall, and Volunteer Cornwall are working together to pilot a new approach to preventative care which focuses on the personal relationships between professional and volunteer carers, and those they look after. These relationships can help build up the confidence of vulnerable people, improving their wellbeing and reducing their dependence on NHS services.
Crucially under the pilot those receiving care have access to a single named contact, working from a care management plan drawn up by all the agencies involved in care provision.
This new approach to care provision in Cornwall, piloted as the ‘Changing Lives’ project, is already making a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people. The experience of ‘Joan’ is a good example of the difference compassionate and joined-up care can make. Joan lives on her own, and has a range of health problems. She had felt isolated, which contributed to her health getting worse. As a result of the Changing Lives project Joan was able to sit down with a volunteer to discuss how to resolve her feelings of isolation, and secure more care support. Cornwall Council provided this additional support and Volunteer Cornwall have helped Joan to become involved in a range of local groups. Joan is now a lot happier, and her health has improved. She is now involved in helping others through the project.
I was pleased to meet with the Care Minister with Age UK Cornwall earlier this month to highlight this pioneering work and look forward to continuing to work with the Changing Lives partnership to transform the lives of local people.