Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb MP visited West Norfolk today (25 April) to support plans that will see a broad range of organisations join forces to improve and protect local health and wellbeing services.

Organisations including NHS West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, other NHS Trusts, the county and borough councils and voluntary organisations announced their formal commitment to work together more closely under the umbrella of the West Norfolk Alliance.

The West Norfolk Alliance aims to transform the way in which local services are delivered by improving coordination between providers.

This approach, which has already been tested in a series of collaborative pilot projects, is designed to respond more effectively to the current and anticipated future healthcare needs of the area while alleviating pressure on emergency care and preserving services for the future.

Proposals include pooling money, staff and expertise, and developing early, preventative treatment and support in the community and at home.

This will involve reviewing how people access services and how they are currently delivered so that more coordinated, effective ways of operating can be created. A core priority will be to develop a single coordinator for people accessing services to simplify people’s journey through the care system and give them greater control over their care. To do this the Alliance will review and re-shape the way their staff work to make better use of collective expertise and to allow greater flexibility for staff to work with colleagues from other organisations, as well as exploring how to get the best from their collective infrastructure and money.

To help people to live independently for as long as possible and to maximise the potential of preventative care, the Alliance will explore ways to take services into the community. This may include exploring how to work more effectively with the voluntary sector and wider community.

In the long term, the Alliance hopes to apply this model to the entire West Norfolk care system, but initial work will focus on the care of the elderly.

The approach gained recognition by Government earlier this year when a bid by partners was shortlisted to become one of the country’s 15 Integration Pioneers. Although the bid was unsuccessful, ministers noted the quality of the proposals and have pledged their support and commitment to west Norfolk.

Dr Sue Crossman, Chief Officer, NHS West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “People are living longer and we are experiencing greater incidences of lifestyles diseases like diabetes. These changes in our healthcare needs combined with continuing financial austerity mean that we need to re-think our approach if we are to deliver high quality services that meet these needs. As well as continuing to improve and develop treatment, it is important that we explore more thoroughly the ways in which we support health and prevent illness; this involves taking a much wider, community approach to healthcare.”

Harold Bodmer, Director of Community Services, Norfolk County Council said: “Local people tell us that they only want to tell their story once and that they do not want to be overly concerned with who provides what service, but for care to be coordinated. Under the current arrangements people might have to have separate conversations with multiple professionals, from GPs and clinicians to social workers and carers, to get the support they need. This can be confusing for people, who may already be frail, and leads to duplications that delay care and waste resources.

“It makes clinical and financial sense to join up these services. Working more closely together will not only create efficiencies and improvements, helping to protect services for the future, but will allow us to create a new system of care built around the needs of our people.”

Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb MP, said: “We live in an ageing society, where people are living longer, and increasingly living with multiple long-term health conditions.  But too often our health and care system provides services that suit the needs of health organisations, not the patients they are serving.  People can be frustrated by repeated referrals to different organisations, long delays, and failure to co-ordinate the care they receive. It is fantastic to see the proactive approach that is being taken here in West Norfolk.”

In the coming months, the public, patients and stakeholders will be invited to comment upon and help shape future services.

Members of the West Norfolk Alliance:

NHS West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust NHS Trust (NCH &C)

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk County Council

Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk

West Norfolk Voluntary and Community Action (WNVCA)

Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT)