●● DR Paul Bowen, GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton, and executive chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)
WHEN was the last time you bought your chips from one restaurant, but your fish from another? How about asking one garage to service your car, but driving to another to do your MOT? It sounds wasteful, disruptive and nonsensical, but as the chair of a commissioning organisation, which purchases health care on your behalf, I often feel the NHS makes life this complicated.
If you are unfortunate enough to have pneumonia, you are likely to find that your hospital care is provided from one organisation, your community-based care from a different organisation, your GP care from another, and your social support from the Local Authority. It is therefore no wonder that sometimes, the NHS doesn’t always get it right. Duplication, communication breakdown, gaps in care and inefficiencies thrive in such a non-integrated system.
The NHS has never had a greater need or better opportunity to change this. We could keep buying and providing health care like our fish, chips and peas – separately, hoping they arrive on our plate at the same time, hot and fresh, or we could orchestrate care entirely differently, buying and providing the whole experience rather than each element, on your behalf. This is called integrated care. Locally we call this Caring Together.
It will require GPs, social and mental health care, community services and hospital-based services to work together differently to deliver the care seamlessly. They may need to partner up with other organisations in and outside of Eastern Cheshire to do so, and they will need to think innovatively and involve you, the patients, to make it work. We must develop our care providers and ask them to join together to deliver integrated care, so you, the public, experience a seamless, high quality, efficient service.
The CCG does not intend to continue to nor can it afford to buy care services the way we currently do.
This will undoubtedly change the make-up of how local services are provided. It will require tough decisions of our local leaders and support and understanding from our public, patients and staff.