Sunday, 13 July 2014

66: Healthier Together, Better Together, Staying Together

A consultation on what ‘best care’ might look like in the Greater Manchester area was launched last week. Led by 12 people (all doctors) who head up the CCG (those groups of people who commission health care services for you and I), this launch was part of the 'Healthier Together' campaign. The plan is to change the way NHS services are organised and provided to the 2.8 million people who live in the conurbation. There is much said about shifting services closer to patients homes and out of hospitals.

'Healthier Together' also aims to ensure that specialist care provided in in hospitals is just as reliable and excellent in terms of health outcomes as other countries. For relatively small number of people, (for example those requiring specialist surgery) the proposed changes are to have a smaller number of bigger services located in just 4 or 5 specialist hospitals around the Greater Manchester area. The idea being that wherever you are located if you need access to specialist care you will be able to receive it. So far so good you might think, perhaps leaving aside the growing transport problems associated with moving around the Greater Manchester area.

There are also possible financial savings to be made. For example, early intervention and treatment of mental health problems could produce savings of £300 million a year in the UK. Given that the health and social care system in Greater Manchester costs £6 billion per year any saving is going to be welcome. Indeed a survey published by the Nuffield Trust last week reported that over 50% of the health care leaders they interviewed felt the ‘funding squeeze’ meant that patient care would start to suffer. 66 out of 249 NHS Trusts finished the year in the red. The report calculated that the NHS needed an extra 2 billion pound a year more just to maintain the status quo. 

Building on the status quo is the aim of the ‘Better Together’ campaign up in Scotland. Having a house and intending to eventually live there full time means I am interested in the outcome of the vote on September 18th at the time of writing this blog, just 66 days away now. The countdown can be found here.

The 'Better Together' campaign represents the Yes vote, and just like 'Healthier Together' they make a compelling story. It’s the Scottish Parliament who will decide what’s best for universities, schools, green energy, health care and industry. Interesting to note that terms of health care, the 'Better Together' campaign reminds us that health care is absolutely free in Scotland, and there will continue to be access to specialist treatment anywhere in the UK NHS - which presumably includes Greater Manchester.

And yesterday saw me in another one of the UK's 4 nations. I was in Cardiff, Wales, to celebrate my Mother and Fathers 60th Wedding Anniversary. They got married 6 years after the NHS had been created in the UK, and over the years the 2 of them and their 7 children, 20 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren have, on a few, but critical occasions, used the health services provided by the NHS. 

However, yesterday, the Sun had her hat on, the company was in good spirits and there to celebrate in style, the bubbles fizzed and flowed, the 60 years’ worth of photos and memories were stirred and appreciated, and we all stood to read the card sent by the Queen. I know my Mother and Father occasionally read this blog, so just to say thanks for everything you have given us children and many, many congratulations.