Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Workforce - the sixth priority

In reality the Sustainability & Transformation Plans (STP) are all about reducing costs and in the NHS the cost of the wonderful staff is the biggest part of the overall cost to providing care.  So any good planners will be taking a close look at staffing costs and performance.

Prioity 6 for Buckinghamshires STP is:

"Establish a flexible and collaborative approach to workforce."

Their initiative is:

"A shared workforce plan to support rotation of staff across organisations to increase quality of care and staff retention."

Motherhood and apple pie! The NHS locally has been talking about improving retention of staff for years yet it is still a problem. Staff morale is low. Staff select to wok in some areas and avoid others. Much of the care is provided by locum staff rather than permanent staff.

In Buckinghamshire we have been short of A&E consultants for many years. GPs and Practice nurses, District Nurses and other specialities are also Report vacancies.

So there suggestion is to share staff across different trusts. But as the nurse taking my Blood Pressure on her evening ward round said: "Every trust is in the same situation. Every day I get asked by an agency to work for more money"

We need more permanent staff!

We need to have enough staff to cover illness, holidays, training etc.

There have rumours that across the STP, that is in Bucks, Oxfordshire & West Berks, £34m is to cut from staff budgets. This figure is in the published document but they do not explain how this will be achieved. As I type this on Christmas Eve they are trying to move an experienced nurse from my ward to one that does not a enough staff. This is dangerous. I do not know the outcome of the discussion.

This is the reality of 21st century hospitals across the country.

I do not think that this priority has a viable solution yet.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Improving Mental Health Services - the fifth priority

Mental Health Services have to be specifically included in the Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Buckinghamshire.  These services are already provided across Buckinghamshire by a range of providers, the main Trust covering both Bucks and Oxfordshire already.

The priority for the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) is:

"Mental Health development to improve the overall value of care provided."

They describe this as :

"Develop a network of providers of specialist mental health care across a larger footprint of STPs coordinating inpatient and community based services."

What do I think this means?

Well this is a guess but I reckon this means they want to increase the number of organisations that provide specific services. They want to do this across a bigger area than they do at present. This might mean that patients have to travel further for their mental health care.

They realise that this means an increase in the number of organisations providing services and that they will be spread across the SE of England. This in turn means that this care needs to joined up and seamless. Good communications are essential as is an improvement in transport for patients across our poor road & transport network.

Do they have the resources to coordinate the fragmented nature of this care? Will they be able to influence the Councils responsible for roads and public transport to improve the roads and buses?

I am not sure!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A recap on Buckinghamshire's STP - my thoughts

Ten days ago I wrote a number of blogs before I went for the operation to remove the subcutaneous lump on my shoulder. I am just about over the GA and the couple of big bleeds post-op and somewhere close to normality. Well .... there is a short period each day when I can concentrate for more then 5 mins.  Will that do for normal?

Anyway I am now a cancer survivor.

Hopefully, beds providing, I will heading to another hospital for a skin graft over the Christmas festivities.  Such fun!

Anyway....the blogs were about the Sustainability & Transformation Plan for Buckinghamshire (STP).  I have tried to put in my terms an explanation of a summary document that our CCGs circulated at their recent set of public engagement events.  They have tried to explain why they needed to develop the plan in association with local hospitals and the county council. They were very honest and said that it is because the increasing activity they will have to fund over the next five years will not be covered by the budget given to them by the Government.

Can't be clearer than that.

But sadly people still don't get it. Some people still believe the Government will throw money at the hospitals again. It didn't work in the past and it won't work this time.

Tonight and tomorrow I will try to finish what I started last week. I have their final three priorities to finish.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Specialist services Maximising value - the fourth priority

This one is a horror story!

"Maximising value and patient outcomes from specialised commissioning"

In CCG speak:

"Identify opportunities for modifying pathways, standardising thresholds and increasing prevention to reduce spend and increase value"

Well that is a mouthful! Lots of jargon and management speak in that statement.

What do I think?  I think it is all about reducing the cost of providing specialist care. This is the sort of care that is not done in our local hospitals. The sort of specialist treatment I am getting as I write this.  I have to declare an interest here!

There is always opportunities to improve the path us patients take through the system. We need to reduce the number of times we move between different parts of the system. This is a good thing. But it is not new and has been going on for years. But this must be done in partnership with the patients.

The interesting phrase is 'standardising thresholds'. What do they mean? I think it means they want to make it more difficult for GPs to refer us to the specialist centres. At  the moment many treatments are provided after the patient has ticked the boxes. The condition has to be severe enough for the CCG to fund it. Patients have to apply to the CCG for an 'individual funding review' when the CCG will look at each case before making a decision. This could be extended.

I am not sure what they mean by increasing prevention and I assume this is linked to priority 1.

As I said earlier it seems that the emphasis for this priority is on reducing cost.

Collaboration between the three acute trusts - the third priority

The third priority is something to do with supporting the three acute hzospitals in the area to work together.

"Collaboration of the three footprint acute trusts to deliver equality and efficiency".

The CCGs description is:

"Consoloidation of backroom services to ensure high quality and optimise cost effectiveness".

What do I think this means?

To be honest I have no idea but I will try to guess.

Firstly what are the three acute trusts? I assume they mean the hospitals in Oxford , Reading and Buckinghamshire Healthcare (Wycombe & Stoke Mandeville Hospitals). At one time they were meant to be independent and in competition with each other. But things change and now it seems they have to work together to reduce costs.

What do they mean by backroom services? I assume that they mean the services that we, as patients, do not see but are vital for quality care. One service that could be ripe for consolidation (or centralisation or merger) is pathology. These staff in this service do all the diagnostic tests, the blood tests and tissue samples, that help Doctors identify what is wrong with us.

I used to work in pathology and I used to spend hours commuting on the train talking with a colleague about turning pathology into a large industrialised process.  He later went on to work on doing just that and it can work at large scale as long as there is a good courier system and good communications between clinicians and pathologists.

Other services such as personnel (AKA Human resources) and finance could also be consolidated.

What we really want though, is more information and more detail. There are stories that they want to reduce the number of nurses as well as 'backroom' staff.  But that seems crazy as we need more nurses not less for quality care. Of course the real question is can the three trusts work together for our benefit?

So what does this mean for patients. Hopefully it will mean more money for our care but who knows!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Access to high quality care - the Second Priority

The second priority area for the Clinical Commissioning Groups is:

"Access to the highest quality Primary, Community and Urgent Care".

They explain this in their words as:

"Create robust out of hospital services operating from community hubs and coordinated by GPs to maintain independence of elderly and frail patients in their own homes"

What do I think it means:

They do not want so many elderly and frail people in expensive hospital beds. They want to improve the care and support that people receive in the community. There is a widely held opinion that people want 'care closer to their homes' and this is their way of providing that care.

During 2016 there were a number of engagement events run by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust called 'Your Community Your Care' where they asked our opinion on what sort of services could be provided outside the hospital. The Trust provides community services as well as acute services.

The different groups of people from different areas of Buckinghamshire provided different thoughts on what they wanted. Most of us thought it was a good idea and should include a wide range of services either based on a building or as a virtual service.

But at the moment there is no clear description of what a community hub would be like, or who would provide it and who would run it.

For a few years before 1999 GPs offered a wide range of services from their surgeries but that came to an end when yet another of the redisorganisations of the NHS took place. District Nurses, Health Visitors, Midwives and other care workers were based around GP surgeries. Now they form teams and don't have the links they used to have with the GP surgeries.  So recreating those teams with lots of different care staff all talking to each other and working together sounds like a good idea.

There are already community hospitals in some parts of the county but not in the big population centres such as Aylesbury and High Wycombe. Will the CCGs be able to fund a base or will the community hub just be a virtual group in the big towns?

Will the Trust be able to employ the right staff given the problems of recruiting healthcare staff in Buckinghamshire. The salaries are higher in London!

This idea could work but it assumes that the GPs are willing to take on the extra role of coordinating the care?

There should also be a big role for the voluntary organisations and charities who already provide a lot of support for the elderly.

The CCGs hope this will reduce the attendance at A&E!  But they have said that many times before and the numbers keep going up.

We need to see the detail of this idea before we can say if it will really achieve the results they want.

Added 21.02.2017

The problem with putting this idea into practice is the need to find the money to set up the new Community Hubs while at the same time keeping the patients in hospital. You cannot stop people going into hospital or transfer them out of hospital until the services are available in the community to look after them.

As I understand it there is no extra funding for Buckinghamshire for this new service

From treatment to prevention - The first Priority

The first of Buckinghamshire's priorities is to "Shift the focus of care from treatment to prevention".

The Clinical Commissioning Group has describes this as:

"Each and every clinical contact to include brief advice, supported by face to face, phone and web based behaviour change support. Build on existing asset based approaches."

What I think it means:

Everytime you see a Doctor, Nurse or other healthcare professional you will be told to eat sensibly (less?), take more exercise, drink less and to stop smoking. You will be encouraged to use an App or website to help us change our behaviour.

Hopefully they will even support patient led groups & community groups to do the same.  I asume these are what they mean by "asset based approaches" i.e using people to reinforce their messages.

This seems a good idea but it will take a long time before any improvements are detected. The Public Health departments in the County Council should be funded properly to support this work. Will the council do that?

I am not sure that busy Doctors and nurses will find the time in our appointments to keep nagging us.

What is STP and what does it mean for Buckinghamshire?

The STP is is short for Sustainability and Transformation Plan. However I guess that doesn't really help does it?

Well it is really the last hope we have to save the NHS because the Government does not want to spend any more of our tax on our healthcare. So instead they want to split England into 44 regions and have told these regions to changes the way services are provided. Our region includes Oxfordshire, West Berkshire as well as Buckinghamshire. But really our plan is a Buckinghamshire plan.

Apparently if we continue to carry out healthcare activity in the way we have been doing it over the last 20 years it will cost £107 million more over the next 5 years than we have money to pay for it. The costs will be much more than our income!

The aims of the plan is to improve outcomes by 2020/21.

The Bucks plan has seven priority areas.

I will try to  explain what they mean - but I cannot promise that my view is the correct one so I suggest you write and ask for the official version.

The Famous seven are:

"Shift the focus of care from treatment to prevention"
"Access to the highest quality primary, community and urgent care"
"Collaboration of the three footprint acute trusts to deliver equality and efficiency"
"Maximise value and patient outcomes from specialised commissioning"
"Mental health development to improve the overall value of care provided"
"Establish a flexible and collaborative approach to workforce"
"Digital interoperability to improve information flow and efficiency"

You can see that the language is a bit 'management speak' and I will try to explain what I think each one means as best I can. I will do a separate blog for each priority.

I write this on a ward in a specialist centre as I wait for my operation tomorrow. I hope that I will be able to complete all seven blogs over the next week as I recover.