Efforts to coordinate health and social care services for Northumberland
There are ongoing efforts to join up and coordinate health and social care services for older people in the wake of a review of Northumberland’s system.
This came about after the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator for the sector, carried out an initial series of targeted reviews of local systems around the country.
The overall findings from these 20 reviews were published last year and an update to Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board in January set out the main findings of this report and its implications.
Council and health representatives were told at that point that while it was not known whether Northumberland would be the focus of one of the CQC’s next round of local service reviews, it had been decided to prepare for one anyway.
As Dr Debbie Freake, the director of integration at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, reiterated at the board’s meeting on Thursday (October 10): “We are going to take it forward not because we see any impending CQC visit, but because we see it as a useful way to drive improvement in care for older people.”
The report to Thursday’s meeting was to update the board on what had been happening since an initial assessment of the county’s system and a number of recommendations were discussed in April.
That first analysis suggested that patients in Northumberland are largely positive about their care, but more needs to be done to ensure services are coordinated, joined-up and integrated.
A number of steps have been taken and progress made since then, but there is still more work to be done.
For example, access to shared records ‘remains a real problem for us and goes beyond care for older people’, Dr Freake said.
She added that care coordination had ‘clearly been problematic’ in the past and there needs to be a focus on the points at which care needs to be escalated, with case reviews in particular suggesting they had been ‘missing the signs’.
Dr John Warrington, a GP and director at the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The thread running through all of this is about working together, genuinely working together.
“Do you think the Primary Care Networks (groups of GP practices working together to enable economies of scale and additional services to be provided), which are now in the oven and baking gently, are the thing on which to hang this?”
Dr Freake replied: “It think it’s the prime thing, but not the only thing. We don’t want to overwhelm our newly-emerging Primary Care Networks colleagues with too much.”