Epsom & Ewell Conservatives hosted our second Local Health Meeting on 27th January at Epsom Hospital. As with the meeting in Stoneleigh last year it was well attended and proved even more interesting.
Following a presentation about what the Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group does (fundamentally buy hospital, community care, mental health and other services but not GP services), Miles Freeman, Chief Executive of the CCG, discussed in some detail the financial challenges facing it. A deficit for this year of around £11.6 million is projected to get even worse next year.
These facts have coincided with the Government and NHS England Chief Executive’s plans for integrating services much more in future. The Conservative-led Government has funded £500 million for a “Vanguard” project to have some areas trial this sort of integration- of Hospitals, GPs, social care, community care and so forth. The aim is to get CCGs, Hospital Trusts, NHS England (which funds GPs), Local authorities etc all working together. Our local medical groupings have agreed to be in the forefront of this move. This is something that had been talked about last year in Stoneleigh as a desirable thing, but now a proposal for the Vanguard project is being prepared and they are all very keen to get this off the ground.
There were presentations from Simon Williams (GP and Board member of the CCG), Daniel Elkeles (Chief Executive of the Epsom & St Helier Hospital Trust) and Tricia McGregor (Central Surrey Health, who run the community hospital in West Park. All agreed that integration would bring many benefits.
Some examples of moves already underway were-
Epsom Hospital will start to use the same IT system as all local GPs already use. This will allow medical professionals in hospital to check patient records if needed, hence improving treatment and avoiding potential errors. It was pointed out that previous Governments had wasted vast sums on trying to do this on a national basis, but with all local GPs already on the system, it is simple to introduce it locally to our hospitals.
The West Park site had building works last year during which they took over a ward at Epsom Hospital for their patients (Physiotherapy etc). During this time they tried out more intense treatment- made easier by testing being quicker, consultants being on hand and so forth. Although this involved some extra costs, the average stay in hospital halved. At the same time their professionals, such as physiotherapists, were able to help patients in other parts of Epsom Hospital, also bringing benefits to them. Although they have now moved back, clearly they are trying to maintain as much of this new regime as possible.
Much more is aimed to follow, although some aspects will undoubtedly prove difficult. For instance Hospitals need to be able to release patients into the community as soon as they are ready. But assessments are currently done in Hospital and then not all necessary services (be it equipment, medication or staff) are available at short notice- however clearly it will be cheaper, as well as better for patients- if assessments can be done at home (or care home) on arrival and all the necessary facilities provided- as any extra cost will be outweighed by the freeing up of a hospital bed. At the same time there will need to be better out of hours GP services to cover any medical needs for such patients. All this makes sense but is not currently done as each element works separately. Working together will both save money and improve patient care.