THE NHS is changing, and will change a lot more in the next few years – and we need to talk about it.
There a several reasons why change is essential.
As a society, we are living longer. That is great news, but too many of us spend those extra years in poor health. That is bad for them, and expensive for the NHS.
The staff we need are not there. We are already struggling to find enough GPs, or emergency doctors, or experienced nurses. You can’t recruit people who don’t exist.
Funding is not keeping pace with growing levels of need. Overall levels of funding to the local NHS system are not rising as fast as the needs of the local population. By 2021 the funding gap across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will be a daunting £600m.
These factors cannot be wished away – instead we must look at our funding, staffing, and facilities, and find new ways of using them to still give people the best possible care.
There are also genuine opportunities to improve NHS care, regardless of the pressures we face. Let’s be honest – today’s NHS isn’t perfect, all the time. We can do better, and we must try to do so.
We can bring health and social care staff together – better for patients, and more efficient too. New technology will help people with long-term conditions to stay well, rather than frequently fall ill. New treatments allow the NHS to help more people survive illnesses, and regain independence afterwards.
The News has run many articles recently, highlighting many of the big issues we face – for instance, how do we help people to stay healthy?
How do we cope with staff shortages? How can we ease pressures on A&E and ambulance teams?
At the outset, I said that we needed to talk about the local NHS – and we have just started to do that. Our health system has recently begun ‘Your Big Health Conversation’, and I would ask all of you to take part. To start with, we are asking you some general questions – what does a ‘seven-day NHS’ mean to you? How should we cope if GPs are in short supply?
We have a broad sense of the changes ahead – stronger community services, NHS and social care teams working closely together – but we don’t know the details, and so your feedback is essential.
Your views will help to guide our thinking, and suggest what might – or might not – work locally. In the coming months, our questions may focus on particular issues, and we may seek out specific groups to hear from them.
See surveymonkey.co.uk/r/bighealthconversation to tell us your views.