Making sure services fit the patient
APRIL ushers in a new era for the NHS as it responds to the needs of patients, people using care services, carers and communities living in an ever-changing world.
Scientific and technological developments in healthcare are more effective than ever, helping people live longer than previous generations.
With rising numbers of older people, it is vital everyone is helped to live those extra years as healthily and as independently as possible.
From April 1, South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group will take over from Primary Care Trusts, planning health services with communities.
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This means looking at the particular needs of the local population, and then making sure services are available to fit the requirement.
The organisation, which will buy health services on behalf of its 285,700 residents, is led by Dr Sam Barrell, the chief clinical officer, who is a partner at Compass House Medical Centre in Brixham.
She also has a background as an academic tutor and honorary university fellow at Plymouth Peninsula Medical School.
Dr Barrell said: "We're very proud to have been authorised, but we are fully aware there is a great deal to be done in ensuring health continues to improve.
"As a GP I have seen the NHS at its best, but I have also seen occasions when services aren't good enough and patients are let down. I feel passionately about putting this right.
"Most of this is to do with making sure services are really well coordinated, so people get what they need at the right time, whether that's physiotherapy, help with washing and bathing, medicines, or hospital treatment. If the care is right, we can help people stay in their own homes to get better, which is what most people tell us they want.
"Expert clinical leadership is, of course, essential and we are so pleased to have a team of GPs and health professionals who are committed to making care better."
The CCG is responsible for a wide range of health and care services, including planned hospital care, for routine operations or other procedures, rehabilitation, urgent and emergency care, most community health services, mental health and learning disability services.
All 37 GP practices are members of the CCG and they will use their local knowledge to make sure local needs are taken into account.
Representatives of each GP practice will feed their views back to the GP members of five localities — Moor to Sea, Torquay Locality, Paignton and Brixham, Newton Abbot and Coastal.
The localities will in turn work with the CCG's governing body, which is made up of GPs and healthcare managers.
The governing body's aim is to identify the health needs of the local population, the services most able to meet those needs, where the gaps in the system are, and what can be done to make healthcare services even more effective and accessible. Above all, the governing body makes sure services are high quality, and safe.
Dr Derek Greatorex, a partner at Kingsteignton medical practice, is the CCG's chairman.
He said: "Good health begins in our communities. At the heart of the new system are the health and care services people use on a daily basis — GP surgeries, home care, hospitals and care homes.
"Family doctors, nurses, pharmacists and, for some, online/telephone services will continue to be the first port of call for most people needing healthcare.
"In the new system, doctors, nurses and other professionals will use their knowledge of local health needs to commission the best available services to meet them."
Dr Barrell said the CCG will also work closely with voluntary organisations which are specialists in their field, to make sure services people really value, such as hospice care, are available across the area.
She added: "We are committed to listening to people in our community, because without hearing the voices of patients and people using services we will not be able to make the improvements everyone wants.
"Healthwatch organisations are the new watchdog for local people, and our area has two — one for South Devon and one for Torbay.
"We also have patient participation groups working with individual GP practices, and we have formed a strategic public involvement group which also makes sure the public is properly involved.
"Almost everyone will need care and support at some point in their lives, and some people need it long-term.
"We will work very hard, with our hospital, our community services, our councils and our GPs, to make sure we can provide joined-up services to meet people's individual needs and choices."