The next year will be financially challenging for the NHS in Brighton and Hove, health chiefs said this evening (Tuesday 27 June).
The outlook was shared at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at the Jubilee Library in Brighton.
The CCG, which has a £366 million annual budget, was graded inadequate last year and staff have been working hard to earn a better rating.
Among the initiatives aimed at providing better care for patients is the work with Brighton and Hove City Council known as Caring Together.
In a joint foreword to the CCG’s annual report and accounts the clinical chair David Supple and the chief accountable officer Adam Doyle said: “Although this year has been a particularly challenging one for the CCG and for the local health economy, we have made good progress in a number of key areas which have proved difficult to resolve historically.
“This has led to improved services for people in the city, particularly around waiting times for treatment.
“Since October 2016, as newly appointed clinical chair and chief accountable officer, we have been reviewing the capacity, capability and governance arrangements of the organisation to build resilience so that we are able to tackle the challenges ahead.
“This approach has already led to tangible results and a positive impact on patient care.
“Poor historical performance against the 18-week referral to treatment (RTT) time, the four-hour assessment and treatment time in Accident and Emergency (A&E) and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust being placed in special measures, culminated in a NHS England assurance rating of inadequate for the CCG in the summer of 2016.
“However, our referral to treatment figures have shown a steady and encouraging improvement throughout the year and since the beginning of March 2017 we sustained performance above 85 per cent against the four-hour A&E standard, the first time this had been achieved in the local health economy for nearly 12 months.
“During the year there has been a lot of national and local coverage about the funding and sustainability challenges facing health and social care.
“There is little doubt that the health and social care environment which we face is extremely challenging.
“Demand for services is rising faster than funding can keep pace and the complexity of patient and service-user conditions increases as communities are challenged and people live longer and require more integrated support in older age.
“However, in Brighton and Hove we balanced the budget for 2016-17 and have set a balanced budget for 2017-18.
“Given the current pressures within the system this is a real achievement and a testament to our positive working relationships with our providers and the efforts of staff across the health and social care system.
“But there will be increased funding challenges going forward, so in the longer term we must find more effective and efficient ways of working.
“In response to these challenges we have been working successfully with our partner organisations, particularly Brighton and Hove City Council, in the latter part of the year to develop a new programme, Caring Together, which we have already begun to implement.
“Caring Together aims to fundamentally reimagine our local health and care environment so that it is robust enough to withstand further pressures on the services.
“It provides us with the opportunity to commission and provide truly modern services in difficult times.
“It builds on work already undertaken in Brighton and Hove and also supports wider plans to transform health services across Sussex outlined in the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP). There are 44 STPs covering England.”
The STPs have been asked to draw up long-term plans for how local health and care services can evolve, improve and continue over the next five years.
Dr Supple and Mr Doyle said: “During the year the CCG applied to take on delegated commissioning for general practice.
“This was approved by NHS England and took effect from 1 April 2017. Delegated commissioning gives us greater autonomy to take decisions in response to local plans and circumstances.
“This also represents a great opportunity to build stronger and more sustainable primary care services in Brighton and Hove.
“Involving patients and the public and listening to their views is central to what we do. During the year there have been numerous engagement events where we have achieved this but we recognise that we can do more to hear from a wider range of people.
“Our focus in the coming year will be to involve patients and local people in the design, management and delivery of services for the future.
“Listening to people’s views and experiences and receiving feedback on services will help us to plan and deliver better care.
“During the year there have been some notable successes. Patients, carers and the public told us that reliable, accurate and clear information on health conditions, services and sources of support are vital to effective self-management and to empowerment.
“We worked with Brighton and Hove City Council to develop and launch MyLife online directory www.mylifebh.org.uk.
“It provides a one-stop shop’ for information on health conditions, local health, social care and community and voluntary sector services and sources of national and local support.
“We have also been involved in initiating a number of very successful campaigns including #helpmynhs.
“This has raised public awareness about the importance of self-care and how people can help by purchasing common over the counter low-cost medicines like painkillers rather than on a prescription which costs a lot more. #helpmynhs is being adopted by other
“#IAMWHOLE was commissioned by the CCG and Brighton and Hove City Council as a direct response to mental health difficulties experienced by young people in the city.
“It has become a nationwide campaign with a national message supported by NHS England and the YMCA.
“Despite the difficulties the CCG has faced, we are very positive about the way forward and are committed to continuing to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of the city.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved with the work of the CCG, particularly our staff, for all their hard work and commitment during a challenging 12 months.
“We look forward to working with them and our partner organisations during 2017-18 to implement our plans outlined in Caring Together and provide a framework for the delivery of the health services which we all care about.”