Green light for 10-year strategy to improve Northumberland's health and wellbeing

A decade-long strategy, which aims to boost the life expectancy of Northumberland residents while reducing health inequalities, has been signed off.

Northumberland County Council
Northumberland County Council

The Northumberland Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy for 2018 to 2028 has been in the making for more than a year, but the final version was approved by the county council’s health and wellbeing board last Thursday (January 17).

As previously reported, the four themes are: Giving every child and young person the best start in life; Empowering people and communities; Tackling some of the wider determinants of health; Adopting a whole-system approach to health and care.

For each theme, the document describes the desired outcome, why it is important, priority areas, work which will be taking place, and, perhaps most importantly, how progress will be measured, which includes the use of national indicators.

The overall success of the strategy will be monitored by changes in life expectancy, healthy life expectancy and the gap between Northumberland’s least and most deprived communities on those two measures.

This is why the time-scale is set at 10 years, as it is ‘long enough to measure meaningful changes in population health/health-related outcomes’.

However, it is important to note that the ‘aspirational plan’ is ‘intended to be a high-level document identifying the priorities, rather than how those priorities will be delivered although some further detail has been provided’.

The final version has been given the go-ahead following a two-month period of engagement, launched in July last year, which gathered a total of 392 responses and more than 1,000 comments.

The engagement feedback report concluded that the responses were ‘on the whole favourable, with the majority of responses and comments in support of the four overarching themes identified in the strategy and priorities which sit beneath them’.

But the consultation with the community did result in some changes to the strategy, one of the key ones being in relation to tackling the wider determinants of health.

Originally one of the priority areas for this theme was about digital connectivity, but following feedback from residents, it now relates to transport policy.

The new priority says: ‘Ensure local transport policy delivers on providing resilient, flexible and sustainable transport options across the county, particularly in rural areas.’

David Thompson, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland, asked how the priorities would dovetail with regional changes in the NHS such as the development of integrated care partnerships or systems (ICP/Ss).

The county’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, who was thanked for all of her work on the strategy, responded: “From a Northumberland point of view, we are very clear that this is what the county wants. But I can’t see anything will be at odds with what we are trying to do.”

Claire Riley, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s director of communications and corporate affairs, added that the recently-published NHS Long-term Plan shows this to be the case. “The key thing is what’s needed locally and this is a great plan.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service