A graphic illustrating the health inequalities faced by the new NHS Norwich CCG in the city. Click to enlarge. Credit: ANNETTE HUDSON

Norwich commissioning group lays out its vision for future of healthcare

Thursday, February 28, 2013
11.07 AM

Tackling health deprivation, more choice for patients and better quality services – that is the vision of the new body in charge of providing Norwich’s healthcare.

Preventative treatment, partnerships with local authorities and private groups, and taking care to patients’ homes are all central to a long-term plan revealed today by NHS Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group.

On April 1, the CCG will become the single body responsible for commissioning healthcare in the Greater Norwich area, and one of five catering for the area previously served by NHS Norfolk and Waveney, ensuring that necessary health services are in place for patients.

The change is the result of the coalition government’s large-scale restructuring of the National Health Service – but what will the changes mean for the group’s 208,000 patients?

Presenting the group’s five-year manifesto, developed after a year of consultation, co-chair Dr Cath Robinson said the focus was on prevention and wellbeing, as well as treatment.

“Our plan is about how people can get healthy, stay healthy and, ultimately, stay out of hospital,” she said. “Time in hospital is just about the most expensive way to spend money, and we can do a lot more with it if we keep people out.”

Narrowing the gap between the healthiest and least healthy areas, and raising everyone’s health, requires the work of more than just doctors however.

Norwich currently lags significantly behind national averages in key categories, including teenage pregnancy, early deaths from cancer, hospital stays for self-harm and male life expectancy – as well as other indicators with long-standing links to health, such as educational standards, child poverty levels, violent crime and long-term unemployment.

The CCG plans to work with partners including Norwich City Council, Broadland District Council and Norfolk County Council to improve health education, and with the newly-launched Healthy Norwich network to promote healthier lifestyles in and around the city. We want to address the social determinants of health, not just the genetic ones,” said Dr Robinson.

That multi-agency approach, and greater use of preventative measures – “catching people upstream to stop the flow downstream” – will in the long-term lead to savings through fewer expensive treatments, added Dr Robinson.

One initiative with Slimming World has already shown benefits, with doctors writing prescriptions for diet group classes to help patients lose weight.

“If you reduce the number of diabetics in the future, you reduce the angst, the morbidity and the misery, and you also reduce the costs of treatment,” said Dr Robinson.

Messages and programmes will be targeted to reach those most at risk, or those unlikely to know about them, said Jonathon Fagge, chief executive of the CCG.

“We will really break things down into small areas, and work out how we can best influence people,” he said. “For example, if we are looking to reach men aged 25 to 50, then targeting Norwich City football matches could be a good place to start.”

Patient choice will also be improved, says the group, with an emphasis on treating people in their own homes and in their communities.

Dr Chris Price, who will chair the group from April 1, said: “Our patients tell us that they want to be treated at home – when an older person goes into hospital it can be very difficult to get them out again.

“Families sometimes have the attitude of ‘let’s get you into hospital’ like it’s a problem solved, when in fact it can just be the start of the problem.

“We want to make the alternative – care in their own home – just as easy.”

NHS Norwich CCG is responsible for making sure the necessary NHS services are in place through contracts with other NHS trusts or private providers. It will also work with other CCGs across Norfolk and Waveney to commission care from providers such as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health NHS Trust, and Norfolk Community Health and Care.