I am always surprised how quickly we reach the middle of February each year, it is definitely too late for me to wish you a Happy New Year but we can look forward to the first signs of spring, a time of hope and optimism.
Before looking forward I want to recognise how busy it has been across our system, in acute care and in general practice, in homecare and residential care and for leaders and frontline staff throughout our system. Thank you again for everything you have all been doing. I know that whilst the very worst of the Omicron surge seems to be over, many colleagues are still managing considerable levels of Covid-19 demand as well as the more usual winter pressures. One statistic that really brought that home to me was learning that GPs in our patch held 486,478 appointments in December, 4% up on December 2020 which itself was considerably up on 2019. Behind the statistics lies the real story of the care delivered by you and your colleagues every day.
Just before Christmas last year, the Government confirmed that the proposed implementation date of the Health and Care Bill would be moved from 1st April to 1st July – this means that we now have three extra months to develop our plans and actions across the system to establish our Integrated Care Board (ICB) and our ‘guiding mind’, the Integrated Care Partnership (ICP).
We were on track for the initial April date, but this delay does not mean that we are pausing or losing any momentum – for most of the key steps to establish the new organisations and systems we are sticking with the earlier timetable. We will make good use of the extra time to fine-tune our plans and make sure that we deliver comprehensive handovers and a smooth transition. This can only be a good thing.
Whilst having the legislation in place and our formal structures confirmed is a necessary step, it is more important that we continue to focus on creating the right culture and behaviours for successful system working. Our purpose, which includes improving outcomes and reducing inequalities, remains our guiding light.
Last week we had an excellent ICS Board development session and agreed that we would continue to meet in public every other month until the ICB and ICP are established. This is important to ensure that there is good visibility and accountability of our system to the public. We will continue to publish our papers and agendas and offer a live-stream of the meetings.
You will be aware that there has been a recent focus on the rising cost of living linked to energy bills. At the same time local authority colleagues in particular were digesting the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper. I mention both of those things because of the potential impact on the population we serve. Choices between heating and food have impacts on health and wellbeing and ultimately show up in demand on our health and care system. The impacts are not felt equally by everyone but by working together we can more quickly tackle the wider determinants of health. So I’m pleased that last week our two Directors of Public Health and colleagues shared their emerging Health and Wellbeing Strategies with the rest of the ICS Board.
The possibilities for economic development and increased prosperity offered by the Levelling Up proposals are an opportunity that I know we will want to grasp – a stable income and a fulfilling job are the cornerstone of positive health and wellbeing. And all of this needs us all (the NHS, Local Authorities, the wider public sector, the voluntary and community sector) to come together with a single purpose – that is the promise and the opportunity ahead of us.
A final example of excellent joined-up working in this way is the targeted work to ensure that everyone possible is protected against Covid-19 through the vaccination programme. Not content with ensuring that the mass of people we needed to be boosted before the end of December received their booster, since the turn of the year, the vaccination programme has rapidly pivoted to a new, extremely localised and personalised approach. Success now looks like ten more people protected rather than ten thousand and this means the whole approach has changed. This agility and the joined-up working between NHS, local authority and the voluntary sector is hugely impressive.
A couple of final pieces of housekeeping, I want to welcome Nick Carver as the new Chair of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, joining this month from East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust. Nick is planning to meet with leaders and colleagues from all across the system over the coming months and I know that he will make a significant impact in delivering the improvement plan for NUH’s staff and patients. In addition, the recruitment process for our new Non-Executive Directors for the ICB is nearly complete and the work to identify our Executive Directors is also well underway. I hope to be able to share the news on these appointments shortly.
Now that the Covid restrictions are mostly behind us, I am personally really looking forward to meeting with colleagues face-to-face and getting out and about on the front-line. I am out in NUH in early March and I would be happy to hear from you if you have a great service that you want to showcase to me – do drop me a line on email@example.com.
Until next time, best wishes,