Virtual wards and more joined up services are future of NHS in West Norfolk

At the College of West Anglia, Minister for Care and Support Norman Lamb MP joined representatives f

At the College of West Anglia, Minister for Care and Support Norman Lamb MP joined representatives from local organisations, to discuss how closer working can improve health and wellbeing in west Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

More patients will be treated at home instead of hospital, officials pledged at the launch of a new West Norfolk health alliance.

Care Minister Norman Lamb attended a summit at the College of West Anglia, King's Lynn, where health bodies and councils set out plans to join forces to deliver improved care to the elderly and vulnerable.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, county and borough councils and voluntary organisations announced their formal commitment to work more closely together.

Proposals include pooling budgets, staff and expertise, and developing early, preventative treatment and support in the community and at home.

Mr Lamb said the alliance would shift the NHS's emphasis from repair to prevention, join up parts of the system which had previously worked separately and give patients more control.

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'It's fantastic to see the proactive approach that is being taken in West Norfolk,' he said. 'With our ageing population, there is a 4pc rise in the cost of care each year and currently there is 1.9m people in this country with chronic conditions which will rise to 3m by 2025.

'Too often our health and care system provides services that suit the needs of the health organisations, not the patients they are serving.'

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The alliance unveiled a 'virtual ward' set up by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C).

It will enable more hospital services to be provided in patients' homes.

Officials say using the new system will release up to 840 acute hospital beds each month which will help reduce pressure on emergency wards.

The alliance will be working behind the scenes to improve communication and ensure the access to services is more streamlined so patients don't have to be subjected to repeat referrals.

Sue Crossman, chief officer of the West Norfolk Commissioning Group said: 'People are living longer and we are experiencing greater incidences of lifestyles diseases like diabetes. 'These changes in our healthcare needs combined with continuing financial austerity mean that we need to re-think our approach if we are to deliver high quality services that meet these needs.

'As well as continuing to improve and develop treatment, it is important that we explore more thoroughly the ways in which we support health and prevent illness, this involves taking a much wider, community approach to healthcare.'

Harold Bodmer, Norfolk County Council's director of community Services, said: 'Local people tell us that they only want to tell their story once and that they do not want to be overly concerned with who provides what service, but for care to be coordinated. Under the current arrangements people might have to have separate conversations with multiple professionals, to get the support they need.

'This can be confusing for people, who may already be frail, and leads to duplications that delay care and waste resources. It makes clinical and financial sense to join up these services. Working more closely together will not only create efficiencies and improvements, helping to protect services for the future, but will allow us to create a new system of care built around the needs of our people.'

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