Hello and welcome to our first blog for Surrey Heartlands. My name is Dr Claire Fuller and I’m a practising GP – I’ve grown up, lived and worked in Surrey on and off since I was three. Surrey is my home and where most of my friends and family live. Earlier this year I was delighted to take on the role as Senior Responsible Officer for Surrey Heartlands and I’d like to use this blog spot to start conversations about work we’re doing.
You’ve probably heard of STPs – Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships – through which the NHS and local authorities have been encouraged to work together to improve health and care across local areas. There’s no doubt that the NHS is facing one of the toughest times in its history; rising demand, an older population with different health and care needs, recruitment challenges as well as a tough financial environment. Let’s be clear, STPs began as the Government’s answer to meeting this challenge, closing what they have described as the three gaps (quality of care, health inequalities and money). And, as a result, they’ve had a pretty poor press, particularly in areas where there are large change programmes going on.
But in reality this is our opportunity to make some serious and positive change. It may sound like a complex conundrum – to take a health and care system that was designed in 1948 and make it work for the needs of a twenty-first century population. But by working together, I genuinely believe we can make things better for local people. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why I undertook this role.
Across Surrey Heartlands – the name we’ve given to our area – we are optimistic. It may sound clichéd but if we step outside our own organisational boundaries and look at the totality, we can do so much more. Every healthcare organisation, from a large teaching hospital to a small GP practice can make improvements for patients, but on their own they can only achieve relatively small steps. By working together we can consider the whole ‘pathway’ and make more fundamental change with a much bigger impact for individual patients and residents.
For example, our ground breaking devolution agreement (which means budgets and decision making fully devolved to us locally) means we have direct access to transformation funding – additional money we would previously have bid for from a central source, which we can now choose to spend on our most pressing needs (£15m for the rest of this financial year). We’re choosing to invest this directly in areas such as mental health, prevention, strengthening our winter plans, schemes aimed at keeping people out of hospital and more. And that will make a difference on the front line.
We’ve already got great examples of this working in practice, such as the Epsom Health and Care model which has already brought local organisations together who are funded from the same pot of money. Previously there were referrals from one organisation to another. Paperwork got lost and delays happened. That is no longer happening and patients are experiencing a much more joined up service. Our plans for Surrey Heartlands and our devolution process will help accelerate this sort of good work, so we’re not starting from scratch.
Of course there’s a lot to do and everything still to gain. As well as devolution, our new Clinical Academy (supporting best practice and innovation) and our unique approach to citizen engagement (understanding and working with our local residents) means Surrey Heartlands is really going places. We’re going to be bringing you a new blog spot every week or so, so please take time to have a read, and let us know what you think. We want to hear your views and ideas.
I’m really excited about the possibilities this can bring.
Dr Claire Fuller
Senior Responsible Officer for Surrey Heartlands