This month, our news focus is local Health issues. In May, we met with East Coast Community Health (ECCH, the provider of most non-GP community health services) and on June 7th with the whole health team combined, The Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG, the local health commissioners), ECCH and Sole Bay Health Centre (SBHC, our local GP surgery).

We wanted to review where we had got to after the hospital closed to be replaced by the “Shape of the system”, primarily the out of hospital team for health care at home, as well as other issues. I reiterated to all that we are conscious that the 65+ age profile in Reydon & Southwold is double the national average, and that, based on reports from other areas in UK, on balance we have very good local health care. We covered:

Phlebotomy: CCG sees that this service has now settled, and it appears that ECCH is likely to retain their contract longer term (currently a six-month rolling contract).

Out of Hospital Team: this now offers a 24-hour service as part of a wider CCG contract with ECCH for a range of Community Health Services. Locally SBHC is working on improving links with ECCH and the CCG see this approach as going well.

Vision of SBHC as joined-up Local Facility: Both CCG and SBHC are frustrated that this vision is only partly realised. Both want the building to be fully utilised for health services such as a dental practice and specialist clinics. Locally, some progress is being made with the Southwold Dental practice now likely to move to SBHC and further developments of community provision by the CCG and SBHC which may be need more space.

Joined-Up Work with Social Care? Social care remains separately funded and commissioned (by Suffolk County Council, SCC) but the CCG and its providers such as ECCH are working more closely in partnership and there is some pooling of resources (e.g. social workers within the Out of Hospital Team). Important work is also under way to integrate the infrastructure including IT systems and access to patient records etc. However, pressure on social care funding has led to more “targeting” of services i.e. restricting pressures on services and budgets by tighter criteria for eligibility such as requiring higher levels of need before care is provided. This is a national issue but also one of real concern locally. However, work on joint planning and pooled resources by SCC and CCG resulted in better management of winter pressures 2018-19. Alongside this, the CCG is also seeking better joined up work with the voluntary sector.

Recruitment Challenge: ECCH report that at any one time they are 25% down on the required head count, due to limited resource availability locally.  One CCG strategy for coping is to offer better pay and training to increase the skills and capacity of individuals to allow multiple roles or staff able to meet more needs in one contact.

SBHC Developments: SBHC reported that they have been able to stabilise services at Bungay, which were poor, and offer the same triage system as we have. SBHC is also promoting the use of different means of delivery, including internet and telephone contact with staff which is appropriate for some but not all patients. SBHC is actively engaged with other GP practices in the developing local network which is seeking to share best practice.

Lastly, we were advised that the five CCG’s in Norfolk and Waveney would be formed into a single unit, with a Locality Director for our area. On this more when we have the details.

On another topic, volunteers are needed to staff the Millennium Car Park on the days that it is open. If you are able to help, please contact Michael Ladd via Southwold Town Hall.

Dexter Kirk, President