IT WAS great to welcome Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, to Oldham this week.
He came to hear Oldham Council, the Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group and other partners explaining what we’re doing to integrate our health and social care work into one system.
Now I know this stuff does not sound immediately exciting – and it doesn’t make big media headlines – but it’s vitally important, so bear with me…
I know a lot of the health sector can seem inaccessible to the public and filled with confusing acronyms and jargon, which I will avoid here.
The key point about this integration work is simple: it’s all about the quality and effectiveness of the result for the patient.
When we need to access care we probably don’t care who’s responsible for providing the service, or who controls the budget. Why would we?
What matters is the right help being there for us at the right time in the right place, and that it is effective.
Success will mean better prevention and health outcomes for patients – and hence reduced costs and less strain on the public purse, enabling more money to be available to invest in the health of our population.
That’s why we are all focussed on this work. This integration of health and social care is a great opportunity from devolution – and its ‘win win’ for all if we get it right.
Like all members of the GM City Region, Oldham now has a Locality Plan under which all partners are working together to transform our social and health care system into a new model that breaks down the old silos at every level.
This is also about aligning care to wider public services like education, skills, work and housing to create a system that is financially balanced and sustainable.
One great example of this is housing where Oldham Council, Oldham CCG and the Oldham Housing Investment Partnership broke the mould in coming together to fund Warm Homes Oldham in 2013.
This scheme offers measures like installing insulation and more efficient boilers, assistance with tariff switching, accessing benefits, using heating systems better and clearing debt with energy companies.
The health problems associated with badly heated homes are those usually suffered by older people and associated with cold weather, like strokes, and conditions affecting children, like asthma. But there are also mental health issues linked to social isolation caused by a reluctance to invite friends and family into a cold home.
Warm Homes Oldham has now lifted more than 4,000 local people out of fuel poverty, eradicating many health problems and producing significant savings on reduced hospital admissions and mental health.
Andy Burnham expressed his concern to us that the link between housing and health outcomes appears to have been under-recognised elsewhere. He was suitably impressed with this scheme and wants to come back to learn more about a scheme he says is just one showing how Oldham is “moving further and faster” than many others on integration.
Another area of clear agreement was our focus on what’s known as social prescribing; an approach where local health practitioners are encouraged to go beyond the simple default of prescribing pills to address problems.
Often when people present to their GP, nurses or other primary care professionals, their problems are more complex and deeper-seated than simply the immediate ailment…
It means, for example, a patient could be encouraged to join a local exercise class or group to address both weight and health issues at the same time as allowing them to make more social connections. This approach can be much more effective for the person, addressing their social, emotional and practical needs, and can also have the added benefit of reducing the use of NHS services.
Andy’s visit was inspiring and the huge collective commitment to get this agenda right in Oldham – with a new system focussed on the person and the place, rather than ‘one size fits all’ – was self-evident.
A couple more important things to mention this week…
Firstly, we have now announced dates and venues for the public consultation on our Oldham Town Centre Masterplan. We’re taking this across the borough in a mini-roadshow where you can view the proposals, then ask questions and submit comments. Please do #yourbit and find your local ‘drop in’ session here.
It’s been great fun to do this but the serious side is that Dr Kershaw’s Hospice needs to raise a staggering £8,000 daily to keep providing their invaluable services for free.
Many thanks to friends and colleagues who have already made donations – and for those who would still like to do so, please visit my JustGiving page and sponsor my dancing efforts here.