The future of health and community services in North Staffs- ten hunches

How about a little crystal ball gazing? What will the NHS under the coalition be like in the future years? How will the changes impact upon the lives of the people of North Staffs? I have looked at the manifesto pledges of both Lib dems and Tories and here are my hunches for the future of local health care.

1. The abolition of the Strategic Health Authority and its replacement with locally elected health boards. I am convinced that the coalition will act fairly swiftly on a pledge that they both made on the management of the NHS and the need to cut bureaucracy. I therefore see no future for the arm of the Department of Health in Staffordshire the SHA. What will it be replaced with? I sense the Lib Dem policy of elected boards will come through and also replace the Primary Care Trusts. I would say a Health Board covering North Staffs possibly covering some of the functions of the Local Authorities at Stoke and Stafford. The boards will also be able to set their own targets with national targets being of less prominence. They will be able to commission services from local providers.

2. More power devolved to Primary Services and with it funding decisions made by GPs. I would also see an aim of both Tories and Lib Dems the abolition of GP boundaries allowing people to register with whatever GP they wish. I can also see a return to the principle of GP Fundholding which was one of the planks of Primary care in the last Tory Government.

3. An increasing market approach to health care with patients to choose whatever health provider they wish as long as the provided meets NHS standards. Patients’ rights and the ability to access information will be a driver of this with the prospect of those who lack the information or knowledge finding it more difficult to access services.

4. There will be greater emphasis on the private and voluntary sector to provide services. Both Tory and Lib Dem manifesto’s stress the need to develop “talking treatments” which will be delivered by private and voluntary providers. I also see the possibility of NHS staff being allowed to form co-operatives to deliver services although this is already happening. The Voluntary Sector will also be more involved in services for vulnerable people to ensure that people remain independent and living in their own homes.

5. An acceleration of the closure of smaller hospitals and community services which is again already happening but I can see some of the more geological peripheral community hospitals being placed under threat.

6. A greater effort on using the power of Government to address some of the public health issues in the country although there will be a clash on the minimum price for alcohol which the Lib Dems support and the Tories oppose. The Tories also want to link GP pay to results in reducing health inequalities in deprived areas. Nationally there will be a move to rebrand the Department of Health to a Department of Public Health.

7. More controversially I can see a break down of the nationally agreed wage and service agreement made between the Union and the management and in some ways the concept of a National Health Service will be replaced by a Local Health Service with wages and conditions meeting local circumstances.

8. Greater use of means testing in the provision of care for the elderly and again the Lib Dems suggest yet another Commission on the future of services for an ageing population.

9. There will also be pressures to reduce the drug budget so expect the stories which we have been getting in the local press such as the Dot Griffiths and access to Herceptin.

10. More hotel costs being implemented in local hospitals for meals and servcies during hospitals stays

Staffordshire leads the way in call for review of personal care proposals

Staffordshire County Council’s Social Care leader Matthew Ellis has joined forces with other leading councillors to express concerns at “unclear, unfunded” Government proposals for free personal care at home.

County Councillor Ellis has been working behind the scenes with a small group to write and gain support for the letter to the government that appears in today’s Times and as their front page lead story. He is joined by his counterparts in Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Leicestershire and Surrey. The letter is supported by over 60 other councils from across the political spectrum.

He said:


“We are all in favour of the principal of free personal care, but this has to be done properly and the money needs to be there to pay for it.


“The figures the Government have used to rush through this proposal are hopelessly inaccurate and could lead to a £330 million black hole in local government finances. If these plans were forced on authorities they would have two stark choices – massive cuts elsewhere or a big hike in Council Tax. We want neither. What we want is properly thought-out and considered policy.


“For so many councils of all political shades to come together like this is proof that this is about care and not about politics.”


Dementia costs increase as Staffordshire calls for better support

Staffordshire County Council today called for partners and other local authorities to do more to support carers and the voluntary sector following the announcement that dementia now costs the economy twice as much as cancer.

And although the number of people suffering from dementia continues to rise, only a fraction of funding goes towards research and treatment into the disease. Cabinet Member for Adults and Wellbeing, Matthew Ellis, says the news is a wakeup call,

“Dementia currently costs £23 billion each year in the UK, but it’s the costs met by unpaid carers and long term institutional care that carry the heaviest burden. This shows how much of the responsibility is shouldered by carers, the voluntary sector and local council tax payers. And although we’ve introduced a number of services to help support people with dementia here in Staffordshire, more needs to be done to help tackle this issue for the longer term.”

Reminiscence sessions and a network of cafes to support carers and their relatives are just some of the successful initiatives introduced by Staffordshire over the last couple of years. Staffordshire’s groundbreaking approach to providing dementia-related services was also recognised at last year’s European Social Services Conference in Prague.

Matthew added:


“I’d like to see local authorities working together more closely and adopting a more consistent approach to this issue. Government in general also needs to do more to support and listen to carers – who absorb much of the financial burden that would otherwise sit with the public purse."

A new awards programme focusing on dementia was also announced today.

Social Care and Health’s Dignity in Care Awards will celebrate the crucial role people play in caring for or supporting those with dementia. Details of the awards, which will be open to carers and those in the voluntary sector, will be released soon.

It has been almost a year since the National Dementia Strategy was launched, pledging to transform the quality of dementia care and help improve the lives of those affected.