Health chief says co-operation and use of ‘voluntary organisations’ can help ease NHS pressures

Antek Lejk, the new chief officer at South Norfolk CCG.

Antek Lejk, the new chief officer at South Norfolk CCG. - Credit: Archant

For Antek Lejk, the challenge is a steep one.He is six months into his role as chief officer of South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), arguably the toughest jobs in the region's NHS.

Last year, it recorded a deficit of £6.6m and had three different chiefs, including Mr Lejk.

In an effort to bring down spending, it proposed a series of controversial measures, all prompting strong reactions – from reducing access to IVF and attempting to change the rules on cataract treatment which could have left people getting surgery on one eye but not the other, to considering restricting access to free hearing aids and cutting prescriptions for gluten-free food.

Just as well then that the man with more than 20 years of experience in the NHS 'fancies a challenge'.

'I don't think I've worked anywhere that wasn't in difficulty,' Mr Lejk said.

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'Since I've got here I've discovered that part of the challenge is working with all our partners because the way the CCG works affects other CCGs and NHS trusts.

'We're talking to every GP in our area to help them with their pressures and sharing better practices.'

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For all the talk of co-operation and improving local healthcare, Mr Lejk's team face an enormous task of delivering savings and efficiencies worth more than £13m this year alone.

He believes a 're-alignment of the NHS' is necessary, with a shift of focus away from acute hospitals and more joined-up community care, supplemented by voluntary organisations.

'I don't want to destabilise the acute sector but we know there are numbers of people in hospital who aren't helped by being there,' Mr Lejk said.

'Hospitals are very expensive. We need to make sure there is an infrastructure in place to get them out and I want to open the debate on how Norfolk can do that.

'We have an untapped number of voluntary organisations, and we want good quality primary care support. I'm not sure what other options are.'

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