'We are delivering things that no one else is delivering'

Alan Richardson, chairman of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Alan Richardson, chairman of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

The pioneering partnership between Northumberland County Council and an NHS trust has been praised once again.

An update on community health and adult social-care services was given at the latest meeting of the board of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Through its Community Services Business Unit, the trust runs community and public-health services in Northumberland and North Tyneside.

This covers a wide range of services, including district nursing, end-of-life and palliative care, discharge and reablement services, speech and language therapy, a number of specialist nursing roles, and public-health programmes such as quitting smoking, weight management and sexual health.

It also delivers adult social care on behalf of Northumberland County Council, which is a ‘unique arrangement across the country’. This ‘very-well-thought-of’ partnership agreement has been in place since 2011.

And this does not represent some small sideline for the trust, which also runs the area’s hospitals; the adult social-care team supported 20,000 people last year, while community nursing supported 46,000 people.

The Onecall system, the 24/7 phone line providing a single point of access for referrals to a wide range of community health and social-care services in Northumberland, receives an average of more than 1,700 calls a day.

Priorities for this year include CATCH (Care at Home Complex Health), which is being piloted in north Northumberland, housing to support independence, community provision for people with learning disabilities or autism and challenging behaviours, and supporting work on discharge and length of stay.

Although in relation to the latter, there are already positives, with 92 per cent of older people who have undergone reablement services still living independently three months after discharge from hospital, for example.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges though and these include cost reductions and council savings, preparations for inspection by regulator the CQC and mounting pressure on home-care provider services.

However, while home-care pressures are a problem in Northumberland, the county is significantly better off than elsewhere in the country and some of its neighbouring authorities, the meeting heard.

Reflecting on the presentation, the trust’s chairman, Alan Richardson, said: “We are in a privileged position. We are delivering things that no one else is delivering. I’m encouraged by what I’ve heard.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service