Norfolk’s NHS is working more together to solve local issues, says leader of community health trust
- Credit: Archant
The chief executive of Norfolk's community health trust believes greater co-operation between health organisations is the best way to meet the challenges ahead.
As chief executives of large NHS organisations go, Roisin Fallon-Williams is a little different from the norm.
For a start, the head of Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) does not have her own office, as she instead prefers to share a working office with colleagues at the trust's base at Norwich Community Hospital.
It's a choice which she hopes helps to remove layers between management and the staff, and her dream is to have a big open plan office where more staff and managers sit together.
Mrs Fallon-Williams speaks frankly about the issues facing her trust, including navigating the labyrinth of hospitals, commissioners, and other bodies that make up the NHS.
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But she believes this region's health bosses are now co-operating far more through joint meetings than when she took up her post at NCH&C in October 2014.
'Community services aren't very well understood,' Mrs Fallon-Williams says.
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'The public are shocked when they see how much work goes on in the communities, and even commissioners (CCGs) don't always understand the service they are paying for.
'Everyone talks about treating people out of hospitals and in their communities and there is the potential to transform and make sure that happens, but it remains the least understood part of the NHS.'
NCH&C, a trust with 3,000 staff covering a population of 1.5 million across Norfolk and Suffolk, provides around 100 different services – including ADHD and Asperger services, occupational health, podiatry, children's services, neurology, and many others.
On an average day more than 3,000 patients are seen in their own homes, while others are treated across the trust's 235 inpatient beds.
As demand on community health services grows, Mrs Fallon-Williams believes greater co-operation between Norfolk's NHS will be even more important.
'When I came here I couldn't understand why leaders of Norfolk's NHS didn't come together more,' she says.
'I understood it was about the geography, but I think we are much stronger and greater together.'
That potential for partnership is being realised now though, she believes.
Last year the Norfolk Provider Partnership was set up, consisting of her and leaders of Norfolk's three acute hospitals, and they also form part of a wider group which includes representatives from the region's five CCGs, the ambulance trust, other health providers and the independent care sector.
But as demand grows, so too does pressure on finances, which Mrs Fallon-Williams admits is a concern.
'We have to balance our books while not putting too much pressure on staff, and they are under pressure now,' she says. 'I'm not confident we will be providing the same service in future. The biggest danger is if the partnerships don't work and then we are going to need the public to take a role.' The trust ended the 2015/16 financial year with a £2.1m surplus.
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