Why new health strategy could be just what the doctor ordered

New chief executive Jane Grant at Forth Valley Royal Hospital
New chief executive Jane Grant at Forth Valley Royal Hospital
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Clinicians and NHS officials have produced the new plan which will frame how healthcare is provided in Forth Valley for the next five years.

Over 18 months of consultations, as well as a major review of clinical services, have gone into preparation of the strategy – Shaping the Future – and now the health authority has the task of ensuring it can be delivered.

As with all areas, NHS Forth Valley has an ever-growing elderly population, but where this region differs is its entire population is changing “more significantly” than the Scottish average.

Dr Graham Foster, director of public health, said: “The case for change is overwhelming as the local population in Forth Valley is set to grow over the next five years and people can live longer.

While this is good news, it also means many more people will be living with conditions such as diabetes, dementia and heart disease which require ongoing support.”

He added that the resulting demand for health services is growing year-on-year with increasing numbers attending emergency departments and being admitted to hospital for treatment.

“We therefore have to shift the focus of healthcare to prevent more people from becoming unwell and help those who do to manage their condition better at home with the support of a wider range of health and care staff.”

More than 50 engagement events were held in the preparation of the strategy, including with staff, patients, community groups and voluntary organisations. It helped identify several key themes but the ones which hit home with NHS officials most were “Ask us what matters to us, not what is the matter with us” and “Loneliness and isolation are key issues in our communities”.

Jane Grant, NHS Forth Valley’s chief executive, said: “Both of these issues highlight the importance of health and social care integration. It’s not something we in health can deal with on our own, but together we can better tackle the things that obviously matter most to people.”

The clinical services review looked at eight key areas, including cancer care, emergency and out-of-hours services, mental health and learning disability services, care for older people and end-of-life care, planned care, long term health conditions, women and children’s services and infrastructure.

Detailed work was also carried out to consider predicted changes in the size and age of the local population, estimate future demand and forecast local trends in the number of people likely to be affected by common illnesses and disease.

Ms Grant said: “Our aim is to try keep people out of hospital beds altogether by supporting them appropriately nearer home.

“The new strategy brings with it public expectations and staff expectations which we have to look at meeting.

“There is no doubt that there are real challenges in keeping pace with rising demand and meeting the needs of an ageing population. There are, however, also opportunities to do things differently, learn from what works in other parts of the country and ensure we make the best use of new technology, skills and resources.

“The creation of new Health and Social Care Partnerships, for example, will enable us to work more closely with local councils and the voluntary sector to provide more efficient streamlined, care, improve communication and reduce duplication.”

The chief executive added that work will now take place to identify short, medium and longer-term actions to deliver the new strategy.