League of Friends’ Forum 2016: Somerset

On 18th October, several League of Friends groups from across South Somerset’s community hospitals attended an afternoon forum with Dr Nick Broughton, Chief Executive of Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

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Two committee members from our own League of Friends participated – in order to find out about the ‘Somerset Together: Sustainability Transformation Plan’, learn of the work of the other groups and share some of the meaningful activities that are funded by the League of Friends of South Petherton Hospital.

Hospital patients' garden

Hospital patients’ garden.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the first words of its constitution state that ‘the NHS belongs to the people’ and the seven key principles that guide it are:

  1. The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all
  2. Access to NHS services is based on clinical need, not an individual’s ability to pay
  3. The NHS aspires to the highest standards of excellence and professionalism
  4. The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does
  5. The NHS works across organisational boundaries
  6. The NHS is committed to providing best value for taxpayers’ money
  7. The NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves.

As we are well aware, our National Health Service is facing numerous challenges. In order to give ourselves the best chance we can to positively influence the direction that the NHS takes, it seems both sensible and vital that our local communities creatively and critically engage with the Sustainability Transformation Plans that are taking place throughout 44 areas in England. Remember, ‘the NHS belongs to the people.’

Outline of presentation
Using the headings, ‘The changing demography of Somerset’ and ‘A system struggling to cope’ Nick Broughton outlined his case for the draft Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP) that has been developed jointly by Somerset Partnership, Yeovil District Hospital, Musgrove Park Hospital, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and Somerset District Council. Broughton explained that our county has an increasingly aged population and ’22,000 people in Somerset have three or more long term conditions, such as diabetes, chronic cardiac disease and dementia – and account for 50% of the health and social care budget of the county.’ He went on to say ’15-20% of GPs will be eligible to retire in the next five years, so how can we ensure that GPs see the patients they need to see?’ Revealing that despite NHS budgets increasing, they are still unable to keep pace with the costs of increasing demand – this year Somerset’s funding gap is £33 million. Broughton said ‘We have to use the resources differently to meet the increases in demand.’

‘Central Government funding for the County Council fell by £15m last year and is due to fall by a further £42m by 2019/2020. At the same time, demand for the authority’s services, particularly Adult Social Care, is increasing, driven largely by Somerset’s ageing population. In less than 20 years, people aged 65 and over will make up more than a quarter of the population in almost every part of the county.’  Somerset District County Council, June 2016.

One of the ways in which the draft STP has identified change is by focussing on increasing investment in illness prevention and health promotion, thereby hopefully reducing the demand for NHS services over time. It also prioritises more care located in the community and at home as opposed to in hospitals, improved links across care services and enhancing GP services with new roles available at practices.

‘…the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health.’   NHS England, Five Year Forward View.

Broughton finished his presentation by encouraging the public – that’s us – to get involved in responding to the STP and provided the ‘Somerset Together: Patient Transformation Plan, Patient and Public Involvement Charter.’ In it can be found the following pledges:

  • We will be open and honest.
  • We will ensure the voice of patients, carers and the public is at the heart of our service plans.
  • We will listen to and engage with patients and carers while we are drawing up proposals and plans.
  • We will have patient representatives on all our groups and committees.
  • We will not make any ‘significant service changes’ without a full public consultation.
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Values, vision and mission diagram, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Without actively participating in the forthcoming STP consultation, we won’t be able to make it as good as it could be, nor will we know whether there are significant causes for concern. For example, it was explained that the STP is exploring consolidating treatments currently available in a range of community hospitals into individual ‘specialist sites’, and that in future the numbers of community hospital beds in Somerset may reduce – as the county spends more on this service than other areas in England. Whilst these may be of little concern to some, for others they may be deeply troubling. Indeed, in a recent article on the British Medical Association website, the following was reported:

‘NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told members of the Commons health select committee on 11 October that time constraints and the unprecedented financial deficits facing trusts risked ‘blowing up’ the [STP] schemes.

Mr Hopson said that, though he felt STPs had a lot of potential to increase integration between health and social care services at regional levels, the speed with which trusts were being required to develop plans was proving detrimental.’ Tim Tonkin, BMA.ORG.UK

Remember, for our communities to have the best health service possible in the future, we must engage now with the Sustainability Transformation Plan for Somerset.

For more information on the Somerset Together: Sustainability Transformation Plan you can contact pals@somersetccg.nhs.uk or telephone 0800 851067.