[O]n the eve of the NHS 70th birthday, health leader Stephen Eames is sharing his vision for the future of happier, healthier communities across the county and says we all have a part to play in it.
As Chief Executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust as well as the lead for North Cumbria Integrated Health and Care System, Stephen has been instrumental in starting to break down the barriers between NHS organisations to join up the care offered to patients – but he acknowledges that is just the start.
Last month, the North Cumbria Health and Care system was formally confirmed as one of the 14 national integrated health and care systems and is considered by NHS England as one of the most rapidly improving systems in the country. In addition, a third of this year’s national capital investment has been allocated to Cumbria to build a new cancer centre at the Cumberland Infirmary and complete the redevelopment work at West Cumberland Hospital. By working in partnership with Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, the new cancer centre will enable the population of north Cumbria to access modern cancer services in state-of-the-art facilities.
At West Cumberland Hospital, the vision is to create an integrated health & care campus, building on the £90 million investment in ‘phase one’ of the project which opened in October 2015. There are also huge opportunities for people in the community to shape how it will look.
In addition to the investment in acute hospital services, Stephen believes the real shift for future care needs to happen in community services. He said: “The needs of our population have changed so much since 1948, people are living on average 13 years longer thanks to advances in science, but often with several long term health conditions. Sometimes these conditions are of our own making – there has been an increase in deaths from cancers and diabetes due to lifestyles for example. The NHS is continually evolving and adapting to meet these demands but we all need to work together to make improvements for the future. Now we have what is termed a ‘super ageing’ population we really need to focus on avoiding hospital stays and caring for more people in their own homes or community setting, and that is exactly our plan.
“Our integrated care communities (ICCs) are being established and will be able to provide more care in community settings for longer hours. We will also be working together on the development of primary care to support this move with our GP colleagues, and are planning to focus on working with our communities including governors and community groups through ‘co-production’ to help us design the services we need for our population.
“But that is just the first step, we plan to have much more of a focus on prevention that supports people to stay well rather than wait until they become unwell and that is where we need everyone in our community to get involved. Through our integrated care communities we will be focussing on the importance of staying healthy and there is a huge role for our third sector/voluntary organisations, community groups and individuals to support this work.
“We understand that we don’t have all the answers and we need to work closer with people who use our services to ensure they meet the needs of our population. That’s why we’re encouraging more people to get involved through co-production and make sure their voice is heard.”
Healthier communities mean less pressure on health and care services so people in Cumbria are being encouraged to think about small changes they can make to improve their health and wellbeing. Stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are the two changes that will make the biggest impact and there is support available so no one has to go it alone. For example local pharmacies provide stop smoking support and Parkrun provides a free, friendly, weekly run for people of all ages and abilities.
Another ongoing key focus is recruiting a strong workforce for the future. The trusts launched a joint recruitment campaign last year ‘is this you’, which describes the kind of people who would enjoy both living and working in Cumbria. Given the national recruitment challenges, the two organisations have had to think outside of the box by offering innovative roles not available elsewhere and development opportunities that make Cumbria a really strong choice. Working collaboratively with North West Ambulance Service, the recruitment team has made international trips to attract doctors and nurses as well as holding local recruitment days in Cumbria which have been attended by local people as well as people from across the UK.
Stephen added: “Our staff working across our services prove time and time again how dedicated they are to providing high quality care to service users. However, in line with trusts across the country, it is vital that we can continue to attract doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to come and work here. We have put some fantastic initiatives in place over the past year which are proving to be successful and we will continue to build on this. We want everyone to join us in promoting Cumbria as an excellent place to live and work.
“I would like to say a personal ‘thank you’ to all of our staff as we celebrate this milestone in NHS history – you are all doing a fantastic job.”