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Demand 'will outstrip extra cash' for Worcestershire NHS - health chief
A KEY figure in ensuring the health needs of Worcestershire residents are met has warned of the “very real” funding challenge facing the National Health Service.
The Government has protected health budgets and guaranteed “real-term” increases in spending.
But Simon Trickett, chief operating officer of the South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said the reality is that the tiny increases being seen are not enough to counter the ever-growing demands of an increasingly elderly and frail population.
Mr Trickett’s admission came as he and a panel of health leaders addressed Worcestershire’s health over-view and scrutiny committee about the importance of a pioneering new Well Connected programme.
The project, bringing together chiefs from health trusts, CCGs and Worcestershire County Council, aims to provide more joined-up health services under the banner of “integrated care” – making sure organisations are working closely together and that there are no gaps or duplication in services provided.
It also aims to deliver more care in the community, reducing hospital admissions for over-65s by 10 per cent and the length of stay for the same group by 25 per cent.
With a national drive towards integration, the work will be supported by an Integration Transformation Fund (ITF) – estimated to be worth about £37 million in Worcestershire – when it comes into full effect in 2015/16.
The budget will be under the control of Worcestershire’s health and wellbeing board but Mr Trickett stressed that the cash is being shifted from other parts of the NHS and is not extra money.
“It is not new money. It is already being used to buy services elsewhere,” he said.
“The funding challenge for health is really very real. Health funding is protected and we are guaranteed real-term increases but at the moment those increases are pretty much the lowest you can get.
“When you combine all that with the demographic changes and challenges, keeping the status quo is pretty much unrealistic.”
Mr Trickett believes one substantial benefit to introducing the pooled funding will be a “genuine opportunity” to improve and increase partnership working with social care chiefs at the county council.
And Richard Harling, the council’s director of public health, backed Mr Trickett’s view that “integration” is essential.
“On the social services side of things the amount of funding that we expect to have in three years is less than now so we will need to meet the needs of more people with less money,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Well Connected programme in Worcestershire has been shortlisted as a potential “pioneer” area by the Department of Health.
A total of 111 applications was received and this has now been whittled down to just 28, with 10 successful pioneers set to be announced later this month.
Although there is no extra funding for those areas named as pioneers, they will be eligible for up to five years of additional “expert support”.