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Meeting turns spotlight on a year of significant achievement and challenges which still have to be met

Members of the public and patients from across Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands came together yesterday to hear and ask questions about the NHS achievements of the last 12 months and the priorities for the year ahead.

Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and North Staffordshire CCG held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Bridge Centre, Birches Head.  It was chaired by Dr Lorna Clarson of Stoke-on-Trent CCG and Dr Alison Bradley of North Staffordshire CCG.

CCGs are the bodies, led by clinicians, responsible for planning and buying health care services for their local area.  People in the audience at today’s meeting heard that in the last 12 months there have been significant improvements in the delivery of services for the area’s 512,000 patients, but finances remain a considerable challenge.

Marcus Warnes, the Accountable Officer for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent CCGs, said: “We have made some really positive strides this year and our priority has at all times been to achieve the best results for our patients.”

He outlined a number of these which included:

  • Improving the urgent and emergency care system, especially at the University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) which is one of the most improved in the country
  • UHNM is also now one of the highest achieving trusts for cancer targets which has resulted in additional funding through the West Midlands Cancer Alliance
  • Performance against many of the NHS Constitution targets has been good, especially around dementia care, primary care and access to psychological therapies
  • Waiting list sizes were smaller in March 2019 than they were during the same period last year
  • Delayed transfers of care have been significantly reduced, meaning more patients are being discharged promptly from hospital with a package of care 

Marcus added: “We are still spending more money than we receive, but are working hard with our partners to return to financial balance without compromising patient care. This includes the move to an integrated care system for the whole of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire in line with the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Dr Clarson and Dr Bradley spoke about developments in primary care during the last year. This included the development of extended access to primary care, the development of Primary Care Networks (PCNs), and how new technology and Electronic Integrated Care Records are helping transform primary care.

Dr Bradley said: “Ninety per cent of patient contact with the NHS comes through primary care, and there are real innovations taking place.

“All patients now have the option of accessing appointments with a GP or nurse until 8pm on a weekday evening. This is what patients told us they wanted and we have just completed a survey to find out how this is being received with the results expected shortly.

“Electronic Integrated Care Records are a really exciting development that is now underway. This is a highly secure form of information sharing across GP practices, hospitals, care and other services so everyone can access the same information. This will really help join these services together and eventually we want patients to not only access their care record but to add to it.”

Dr Clarson said: “The development of Primary Care Networks is the biggest change in primary care in over a decade. Each GP practice in the area is now a member of a PCN with six in North Staffordshire and seven in Stoke-on-Trent.

“It will help practices pool resources so they can be as efficient as possible but still provide the personal service to their own patients that is so important. This includes a more agile skill mix of professionals working in primary care. One GP practice maybe can’t afford to employ a specialist, but five could, with each having their services for a day a week.”

Guest speaker Jonathan O’Brien, Director of Operations with North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust spoke about mental health developments in the last year and future developments, including the introduction of a Mental Health Crisis Care Centre at Harplands Hospital and the development of Crisis Cafes.

He also outlined developments in mental health services for young people, with mental health professionals working in schools, and 95 per cent of young people in Stoke-on-Trent who are referred with an eating disorder able to access specialist services within a week.

Questions were asked by members of the public on a variety of subjects which included:

Where are we with proposals to merge the CCGs?
The CCGs have engaged with GP practice members, other partners and the public. Member practices will vote on the proposals at the end of September. All six memberships would have to agree for the CCGs to merge.

How will the CCGs tackle the deficit?
We are working closer with all our providers to address the drivers of our deficit. We are in a much better place to deal with these now, but it will take longer than one year.

When will the CCGs follow national guidelines on hearing aids?
NICE are reviewing their advice and when this is done we shall be in a better position to look at how we best align hearing aid provision across the area and we will consult patients about this in the autumn.

When patients talk to NHS111 why do they need to repeat information they give if they go to A&E?
We are looking at a new integrated care service that will improve the way 111 interacts with other services and it should mean fewer people need to go to A&E after contacting 111.

Are people being treated differently so they do not end up in Police cells if they are having a mental health crisis?
This has reduced greatly, with more patients able to get access to crisis suites. Any that do go to police cells are there for a very short period of time.

Have any decisions been made yet about the future of community hospitals?
We haven’t excluded any of the options that were recently consulted on. There is a lot more work to do. We plan to make a decision in December.

How can autism diagnosis times be reduced and services be made fit for purpose?
There is a joint action plan and we are working with providers in the north and south of the county. We are giving parents a chance to share their experiences.

Is there a plan in place for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent councils to work together on smoking cessation services?
Fewer people are smoking and cessation services are changing to reflect this and becoming much more focussed on sections of the population who smoke the most.

You can find out more about the CCGs on their websites: