Not over the hill or the hurdles ahead

Kathryn Ward, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

There was a week at the end of last month that turned out to be an interesting one for hurdles – not only because it saw me facing a personal challenge head on, but also because it revealed more about the challenges for long term conditions in the NHS.

The personal trial was climbing Helvellyn in the Lake District. As the third highest point in England, and with some pretty death defying drops, I had been more than a little sceptical of a friend’s supportive words, “But it’s do-able”.

Helvellyn, Lake DistrictAnd the NHS challenges? Well, last month I attended the Emergency Services Show in Birmingham, where I heard that over 15 million people are living with multiple, long term health conditions. That’s a figure which currently accounts for around 70% of annual NHS expenditure and it will only continue to increase due to the rise in life expectancy.

Suddenly, climbing a 3,000 foot mountain didn’t seem so daunting.

The recommendations being taken forward from the vision of a better NHS in the Five Year Forward View, reference the importance of working with patients and professionals to deliver a person-centred approach whilst enabling a seamless continuity of information.

Some work is already underway to take this further, one project being the innovative models of intervention being developed between health and the emergency services.

Public Health England, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), the Local Government Association (LGA) and Age UK have been working together to use fire resources as an asset, for example, to prevent unplanned hospital admissions and through early intervention, improve the quality of life for people living with long term conditions.

Design principles for these ‘safe and well visits’ and a consensus statement were published on National Older Peoples Day on the 1 October 2015.

The information sharing that will need to occur to develop a successful multi-agency programme between these partners will be critical and some immediate thoughts and questions sprang to mind:

  • How will those living with long term health conditions be identified? Will the partners distinguish them as specific cohorts e.g. people living with mental health issues, frailty, addiction to drugs and alcohol, recently bereaved or at risk of social isolation?
  • How will this relevant health and social care information be shared with emergency services?
  • How can information identified by paramedics be passed back to enable early health and social care intervention?
  • Will joint training and awareness about each partner’s roles in the programme be provided?

To begin addressing the questions above, our team will be looking in more detail at the work Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is undertaking through its Community Risk Intervention Teams (CRIT). We will be writing about how they have already addressed some local information sharing challenges and explore their plans to improve information sharing across Greater Manchester.

My own personal challenge was helped by the positive words, “But it’s do-able”, and as you can see from the photo, I made it to the top! With the same mind-set, the hills and hurdles facing the NHS may be overcome too – by taking one step at a time, supported by leadership, encouraging partners, a vision and a willingness to try new things.

On 9 November, we will be delivering an information sharing session at the How do you talk to people if they don’t exist seminar, hosted by CFOA as part of the ESRC festival of social science.