Top patient group fails to back plan to transform Norfolk NHS

Health chiefs hope to save much of the money by treating people in the community rather than in hosp

Health chiefs hope to save much of the money by treating people in the community rather than in hospital. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A group representing the interests of patients in Norfolk has failed to endorse plans drawn up by health chiefs to dramatically change the NHS and find tens of millions of pounds in savings.

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Health chiefs in Norfolk and Waveney unveiled on Friday how they hope to secure the future of our NHS by making around £300m in savings and transform the way patients are treated.

Every area of England was told by NHS England to come up with a 'Sustainability and Transformation Plan' (STP) to reduce deficits by keeping patients out of hospital.

Between now and 2021 just under £300m of savings have been earmarked in the plan for Norfolk and Waveney. At the same time around £150m of investment will be made.

Health chiefs said without the changes the health and social care system would be £416m in the red by 2021 in Norfolk and Waveney.

But the plans, which were sent to NHS England at the end of October, were not supported by the group representing patients in the region during the process – Healthwatch Norfolk.

Alex Stewart, of Healthwatch Norfolk.

Alex Stewart, of Healthwatch Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

Alex Stewart, chief executive of the group, said their board did not endorse the STP document because they felt it did not contain enough detail about how patient care would be transformed.

'What concerns me still is that there is a lot of rhetoric but not a lot of action,' he said.

Mr Stewart said Healthwatch, which has been involved in the STP from the start, still supported the STP process and the document called 'in good health' can be viewed and commented on on their website.

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Much of the detail about how savings will be made is yet to be decided on as plans are in still in an early stage, but the main points are:

•Overall cuts in every area of the NHS and social care system apart from mental health;

Hospital budgets will be hit the hardest in the plans to move patients out of wards and into the com

Hospital budgets will be hit the hardest in the plans to move patients out of wards and into the community. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

•One in five patients who currently goes to hospital being cared for in the community instead;

•Cutting a forecast deficit in health and care system from £416m to £50m by 2021;

•The STP is based on people taking more responsibility for their health and providing more care in communities.

•What the experts say

Labour MP Clive Lewis said the plans had been drawn up those in a "parallel universe". Photo: Jonath

Labour MP Clive Lewis said the plans had been drawn up those in a "parallel universe". Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

•Former health minister and Liberal Democrat North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he welcomed any extra money for mental health but said the whole STP was 'unachievable' with the cash being made available.

'The detail is just not there,' he said.

'We are forcing people to go through the process when everyone involved in the process knows it is not achievable.'

•Antek Lejk, chief officer of North and South Norfolk clinical commissioning group, who helped draw up the STP, insisted they would provide better care with less money by bringing health and social care together. 'We are trying to transform rather than cut,' he said. 'We need to stop spending the money on expensive care. It is very expensive to send someone to hospital.'

Dr Wendy Thomson, the managing director of Norfolk County Council who is leading the talks on Norfol

Dr Wendy Thomson, the managing director of Norfolk County Council who is leading the talks on Norfolk and Waveney's new health plan. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

•Roisin Fallon-Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust, said many people in hospital didn't need to be there. 'We need to shift the way we provide to our community and primary care and social care,' she said.

•Dennis Bacon, from Norfolk Independent Care, which represents care providers in the county, said it would be 'very difficult' to improve some health services with less money. But he added: 'It's not always the case that less money produces worse outcomes.'

•Clive Lewis, Norwich South Labour MP, said: 'These people must be living in some kind of parallel universe to the rest of us where black is in fact white and gravity is a force that pulls objects up to the sky.

'The reality is you can't continually do more with less. Cutting funding for services does not improve them.

'The Titanic would still have gone down no matter where they put the deckchairs.

'In the Alice in Wonderland world of this Plan the £416m 'deficit' is a measure of financial failure.

'Out here in the world of patients and people needing care it shows just how starved of funds our local NHS and Adult Social Care system really is.'

•Dr Wendy Thomson, chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney STP, said: 'Our population is growing, people are generally living longer and the type of care that people need is changing.

'We know that there are ways we can improve how we care for people, and that our current services are not sustainable if they continue as they are now.'

•What the public thinks

We asked people in Norwich city centre on Friday afternoon what they thought of the plan to treat more patients at home.

•Andrew Varney, 55, from Blofield said he thought care at home 'wouldn't be a bad thing', but said: 'I think it would be better to invest in better out-of-hours care.'

•Judy Shadlock, a 57-year-old carer, questioned the kind of care that would be given to patients at home.

'It would be worrying if the people patients were living with couldn't do anything to help,' she said. She described the current booking system for a GP appointment as 'ridiculous'. 'I think it would be better if they had a system where you book and if you don't turn up you have to pay - that would contribute to costs.'

•Bill Ropson, 95, said: 'I have had two strokes this year and the NHS have been an enormous help. I think for people who are on their own, home care could be a really good thing,'

•Robert Loads, 18, from Fakenham said: 'A good place to start is to reduce waiting times. I think people will be more comfortable at home for some kinds of care.

'It would be a way to stop people from going to the hospital for things they don't really need.'

•To have your say visit www.healthwatchnorfolk.co.uk/ingoodhealth/

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