Archive for August, 2015

Health Matters

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Like so many since I started this job, this week has had a health and wellbeing strain running through it like a stick of Blackpool rock.  I spent Tuesday morning with a group of professors at Keele University from the Medical School and the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy, and then most of Friday with Public Health England, along with meeting NHS providers and the usual round of internal meetings and conversations.  There is no doubt in my mind that getting into prevention to reduce acute and chronic care is the only long-term answer to our health challenges.

I keep reminding myself that people living longer is a very good thing; my mother is a fit, if occasionally difficult, 84 year old, whose mother died in her early 70s. At present, the average person is living two years longer every decade, but most of that advance is not in good health, and that is our challenge.  If we set ourselves the highly ambitious target of extending healthy life in Staffordshire by one year in the next five, we would probably only be standing still in terms of dealing with the demand on our services.  The challenge is exacerbated in that our NHS provider colleagues are fixed by the scale of the immediate problem, and have little capacity to look to the future, although we all know that we must.  It is down to us, along with the NHS commissioners and Public Health England to take the long view, using the big brains of such establishments as Keele University.

The good news is that our planning is progressing, and there is a feeling of movement. The NHS Commissioning Congress is getting up and running, with the Transformation Director working from SP1 which will help enormously in terms of integrating what we are doing with the Care Commissioning Groups and more widely with the NHS.

Creating a great place to live

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

I’ve now completed all of the initial district and borough visits, with the last one taking place exactly on my three month point in post.  The day spent in Newcastle-under-Lyme was hugely impressive, and exemplified the success of collaborative working between county and district and boroughs, whether in infrastructure development, skills or social care.  A walk around Newcastle town centre to discuss the Ryecroft development and Public Sector Hub with county and borough colleagues was inspirational; if we get it right, it will help to rejuvenate the town centre.  This was followed by a visit to Newcastle-under-Lyme College, recently rebuilt, and now somewhere that any student would feel proud to study.  Lunch and a visit to an excellent extra care facility, which shares its building with the village hall, police post and physiotherapist showed what can be done in a village setting to keep our elderly residents connected to wider society. We then visited Kidsgrove Railway Station which will soon be redeveloped in conjunction with Network Rail, and lastly a sports centre which we must improve. As I mentioned at the start, a great day out of the office.

The visits have confirmed an impression that I have developed about Staffordshire County Council as a commissioning authority, and it is a good thing.  We have managed to think through to outcomes, rather than being constrained by present arrangements, in particular with regard to buildings and infrastructure.  This means that we have an open mind to thinking through a problem.

I spent some time with our Procurement Team last week and I learned a lot, as I always do when I am out and about. We need to develop our existing good work to get all of our contracts and arrangements with partners as productive as they could be. Finally, as you may know, work is now underway to develop our budget plans for next year and beyond, and we’re looking at how they and the Business Plan drive us forward. I’ll report more on that work in the coming weeks.