At the annual meeting of NHS Northumberland CCG, a member of the public said he welcomed the optimism on display from members of the governing body, but asked if it was misguided given all the pressures the NHS is facing.
Chief finance officer Jon Connolly said: “Workforce is a major challenge. We can get ourselves in as strong a position as possible so that we can best deal with it.”
Lay chairman Janet Guy added: “We are optimistic because our position is improving significantly which gives us the strength to tackle those challenges.
“There won’t be easy answers to all of them and some of them cannot be solved.”
Earlier in the meeting, the CCG’s chief operating officer, Siobhan Brown, had summarised how 2018-19 had gone in the different sectors – primary care (GPs etc), urgent and emergency care, community, mental health and learning disabilities, and planned care and long-term conditions.
She set out where services had been improved or new initiatives introduced as well as significant ongoing work, but she also set out the challenges, many of which relate to issues affecting the NHS nationally – recruitment and retention of staff and the increasing pressure on services as demand continues to grow.
“Something we haven’t sorted yet but is right on our agenda is ambulance times and handover delays at the front door,” she said.
She said she was there to give a ‘very honest appraisal’, adding: “Without doubt, it’s been a challenging year in terms of finances and developing the right models of care for our patients. What I can assure you is that as a CCG we do listen.”
Introducing the annual report, Ms Guy said: “We are lucky in this area that we live in a very high-performing health economy.”She highlighted that Northumbria and Newcastle hospital trusts, plus the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear mental-health trust, are all rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, while the North East Ambulance Service is good.