Norfolk health trusts joining forces in bid to improve care

LR: Roisin Fallon-Williams, of Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust, Mark Davies, of Norfolk and

LR: Roisin Fallon-Williams, of Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust, Mark Davies, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust, Dorothy Hosein, of Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn (sitting), and Christine Allen, of James Paget University Hospitals Trust. All are chief executives of their respective trusts. - Credit: Archant

Hospital bosses insist a new system of healthcare is 'absolutely necessary' to deal with the growing pressures on our local NHS.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is one of the hospitals that will benefit from closer wo

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is one of the hospitals that will benefit from closer work between trusts. - Credit: PA

Health services in Norfolk are set for a shake-up after chief executives of four trusts signed a deal to work closer together to sustain and improve the quality of patient care.

Mark Davies, chief executive of Norfolk's biggest health provider, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust, described the move as 'a big day for the people of Norfolk'.

It was welcomed by figures outside the local NHS, but a union questioned the 'secrecy' at the way the deal was brought forward and warned against any steps towards merging trusts.

Within the agreement comes a pledge to deliver a 'comprehensive plan' for Norfolk, which will be developed by the summer of 2017.

It will be orchestrated by bosses at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust, James Paget University Hospitals Trust in Gorleston, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Trust, King's Lynn, and Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust.

The public will be consulted over the plan. Mr Davies said there would be changes to the way services were currently provided, and added the agreement was 'not about merging trusts.'

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'Each trust has its own issues and the way to solve them is by working together,' he said. 'This is an absolutely necessary step to face the growing demand on our services.'

When asked what services may be affected or whether or not there could be redundancies to staff, Mr Davies said: 'We don't know yet, it's way too early to say. We have only just agreed it. This is a great opportunity for our staff to get involved and share their ideas.

'I would ask the staff to be engaged and let us know what they think.'

Harry Seddon, the N&N's Unison representative, said there had been 'secrecy' over the talks between the trusts prior to yesterday's announcement, adding that none of the staff unions or governors had been told about the discussions.

'We've been given no idea what this move means,' he said.

'The possibilities range from excellent, through benign to the threatening – who knows?'

Mr Davies said: 'I have always said publicly that it's crucial to work with other organisations. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time.'

In his briefing email to N&N staff, Mr Davies said: 'The demands facing the NHS across Norfolk are considerable, and our boards have agreed that working with our other NHS provider partners locally to develop joint solutions to these problems is the right approach.

'We all face similar challenges. A rapidly growing older population with complex health needs, the need for better integrated care, challenges recruiting staff, the need to balance our budgets, and to deliver our NHS performance targets.

'This agreement is about working together to meet these challenges, it is not about merging organisations.'

The group will meet every month and chief executives will report its progress at trust board meetings, which are held in public.

Harold Bodmer, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We strongly welcome this initiative as part of the work that the NHS and the county council are already fully engaged in.

'This will ensure a better co-ordinated and more effective health and social care system, which has to be good news for patients.'

Chloe Smith, the Conservative MP for Norwich North, said: 'I'm keen to see more detail but initially more co-operation is surely a positive step.

'I would urge all the bodies involved in our healthcare to work together. A joined-up way of working is sensible and the right thing to do.'

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