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Healthwatch: Planning Healthy Futures

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Nicolo Canova

If you've ever watched Call The Midwife, you'll know that health services are always being re-organised.

The NHS's most recent re-organisation is called the Long Term Plan. It's one of the most ambitious plans the NHS has devised and it will affect everyone in Sheffield. This is why Healthwatch Sheffield has got involved.

Healthwatch is the independent champion for everyone in the city using health and social care services, from your GP and midwife to hospitals. Every year we discuss with thousands of people their experience of health and social care. We've found out about the experience of people living in care homes, investigated mental health services, and worked with the Sheffield Autistic Society on how services could be improved. We share these views and experiences with the NHS and Sheffield City Council so they can make improvements happen.

The NHS is one of the great achievements of our country

So what's good about the Long Term Plan?

- Increased spending on services in communities, so people get treated at home and don't need to go to hospital.

- Taking action on health inequalities, as in Sheffield there's a gap of nearly 20 years of healthy life between people in deprived areas and those in affluent areas.

- Greater emphasis on helping people not get ill in the first place.

What is Healthwatch Sheffield worried about?

- The plan doesn't say enough about social care - things like help with meals or personal care at home - for older and disabled people, and how it has been cut because central government has reduced its funding to Councils. Social care is vital and so is improved funding for councils to make it happen.

- The lack of tough accountability of the health service to local people, and how the good ideas of citizens can be made part of NHS thinking.

- The lack of freedom for local areas to design services with the NHS, so that they work for their populations.

What is Healthwatch Sheffield keeping its eye on?

- The new organisation of the NHS across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw. Is it accountable? Is it engaging with citizens? Have most people even heard of it? It's called the Integrated Care System.

- Health and wellbeing are created not just by health 'services', but by decent housing, good job and volunteering opportunities, and by family and friends in strong communities. Business, councils and charities all nurture this environment. How are they part of the Long Term Plan?

- Will the NHS commit to a first preference to public service, not private provision?

Healthwatch Sheffield has been part of a national listening exercise about the Long Term Plan. We went everywhere, from the Moor Market to lots of community meetings, to find out Sheffielders' views. Across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw every local Healthwatch asked people, "What would you do about healthcare?"

People wanted physical and mental health treatment to be joined up better. Proposals to improve care in the local community got the thumbs up and investment to help people live longer and healthier were supported. All the findings will go to the NHS to help shape the Long Term Plan.

The NHS is one of the great achievements of our country and its future matters, at one time or another, to everyone. The Long Term Plan is trying to work out some of what needs to change, because changing the way services operate and how they are managed is important.

But in the 21st century, the NHS needs to provide top-class care and be a movement that enables us all to flourish.

Judy Robinson is Chair of Healthwatch Sheffield.

If you want to know more or volunteer with Healthwatch Sheffield, visit healthwatchsheffield.co.uk

Next article in issue 139

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