'We don't realise how good Northumberland health and social care services are,' says GP

‘We don’t realise how good our health and social care services are’, a Northumberland GP has said.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 4:45 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 3:12 pm

Dr Jane Lothian’s comments came during an update on the county’s Better Care Fund (BCF) at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board.

The BCF is a component of government policy to improve integration between health and social care, which has four national requirements, including funding commitments.

Alan Bell, from NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), outlined that Northumberland’s plan for 2019-20 totals £39.2million, which is made up of a CCG pot of £24.2million and contributions from central government to the local authority of £3million in Disabled Facilities Grants, £10.6million through what is known as the improved BCF and £1.5million in winter pressures grants.

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It funds a range of services including home care, rehabilitation and reablement – support for people to live independently again after being discharged from hospital.

He explained that Northumberland’s history of integration between NHS organisations and the council meant that the county was faring well against the national targets, such as the measure on delayed transfers of care.

Coun Wayne Daley highlighted one of the figures in the report on reablement, which showed that the proportion of older people who were still at home 91 days after discharge from hospital was 91.7% in Northumberland, compared to an English average of 82.9%.

He suggested that the good work taking place in the county in relation to this issue should be showcased to other areas.

Coun Veronica Jones, the cabinet member for adult wellbeing and health, added: “There’s a tendency to look at issues, not where we are doing well. I think our short-term support services are a big part of that, they are all outstanding.”

Dr Lothian, who is also medical secretary for Northumberland LMC (local medical committee), said: “From the point of view of Fortress Northumberland, we don’t realise how good we are.

“We don’t realise how good our services are compared to many other areas.”

Nonetheless, Siobhan Brown, the CCG’s chief operating officer, offered assurances that ‘we don’t rest on our laurels’.

For example, she reported that earlier in the year, the figures showed a downturn in the delayed transfers of care measure, but the CCG did a ‘deep dive’ into the reasons why and got to the bottom of the issue.

Dr Lothian did, however, raise concerns about the requirement for the new Primary Care Networks – groups of GP practices working together to reduce costs and provide additional services – to have more responsibility for overseeing social care, questioning if there was the capacity to do so.

Ms Brown responded: “We are really concerned about that too.

“Cath (McEvoy-Carr, the council’s executive director of adult services) and I have just appointed a service director to work across the two organisations who will look at that. We need to push back at a national level.”