Northumberland leads NHS into new era of patient care

Anne Ashley, community matron (back centre), with members of Northumbria Healthcare's community nursing team in Alnwick who are based at Bondgate Surgery in the town.
Anne Ashley, community matron (back centre), with members of Northumbria Healthcare's community nursing team in Alnwick who are based at Bondgate Surgery in the town.

NHS England has announced that Northumberland has been chosen to take a national lead on transforming care for patients.

Building on successful work over many years to integrate health and social care in one of the most rural counties in England, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been chosen to lead work with partners to deliver an integrated primary and acute care system (PACS) for the county.

The Trust will work in partnership with NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Northumberland County Council, GP practices, North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Healthwatch Northumberland, as one of only eight areas across England chosen as ‘vanguard’ sites.

Health and social care organisations in Northumberland have a strong track record of working together to deliver joined up care for patients and the county is already at the forefront of delivering integrated health and social care.

The opening of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in June will mark an important first milestone in making sure patients get the right care, in the right place, at the right time in a serious life threatening emergency with specialists available around the clock to help save lives and improve outcomes.

The announcement means work can also progress with partners to further enhance the provision of local services, empowering local communities to live longer and healthier lives at home, with an increased focus on prevention.

Jim Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is excellent news for Northumberland and testament to the very strong partnership working that already exists across primary, secondary and adult social care to provide seamless care to our patients.

“To deliver truly integrated care we must look at experiences through the eyes of our patients and remove the barriers of organisational boundaries which have historically existed and today’s announcement allows us to do just that.

“By working together we can make sure that care is joined up so that our patients have a smooth transition from hospital to home with the right support and ultimately a good experience of care whenever and wherever they need it in Northumberland.”

Dr Alistair Blair, chief clinical officer at NHS Northumberland CCG, said: “We wholeheartedly welcome today’s announcement which will allow us to build on the excellent work that is already taking place across Northumberland.

“Our local GPs already work in a very integrated way providing support to inpatients in community hospitals across Northumberland and treating patients with minor injuries in general hospitals.

“The next steps in our vision include creating ‘hubs’ for primary care across the county, whereby patients will be able to access their local GP over extended hours and into the weekends for routine and urgent care, preventing the need to go to hospital when symptoms worsen. They will benefit from a coordinated journey through health and social care.”

Scott Dickinson, chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board in Northumberland, said: “This is great news for Northumberland and testament to the already excellent progress all health and social care partners have made to date regarding the integration of health and social care.

“It is absolutely right that our local communities get access to a streamlined health and care service – this will not only mean that we will all benefit from the transformation of emergency and urgent care with the opening of the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, but also that this transformation will extend to primary care – enabling patients to access a GP service seven days a week and many other areas that will support our local communities to live healthier lives but also get the right care, in the right place, when they need it most.”

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “The NHS now has its own long term plan, backed by just about everybody, and today we’re firing the starting gun. Instead of the usual top-down administrative tinkering, we’re backing radical care redesign by frontline nurses, doctors and other staff - in partnership with their patients and local communities.”