The Health and Social Care Board has just finished 16 public meetings across Northern Ireland seeking views on one of the biggest shake-ups in decades. The man leading the change John Compton tells us why change is vital.
Barely a day goes by without some change either happening or being announced. But one question that usually comes to my mind is – what does this actually mean for me?
You have probably heard about – Transforming Your Care – which is one of the most significant reforms of health and social care to date – but what does it actually mean for you and me?
In simple terms, it means less care in hospital; more in or close to home; more say for you in how your services are organised; greater use of technology and better prevention. Ultimately it means better outcomes.
Practically, it means that you will access more services through your GP and other professional staff at local centres. It means better care for older people to enable them to live at home or in a supported living facility, rather than in a residential home. In my experience no one chooses to be in a hospital, so it means in future that hospital will be somewhere you come to when you are very unwell. No-one should live in a hospital all the time, so some mental health and learning disability hospitals will inevitably close or change, and there will be more respite options and improved support for carers.
There is no doubt that the health and social care service has served us very well over the last 25 years but the evidence is also telling us that it won’t work as well for much longer if we don’t make some changes. Transforming Your Care is about managing that change.
At the moment around 40% of the population are over the age of 65 and this will increase to 45% by 2020. Most people will live a successful older life but some people will need extra support, so there will be more pressure on services.
Often people will say that these changes are just all about cuts. This is not the case. Each year we spend around £4.5 billion on health and social care in Northern Ireland – over £10 million a day. I often use the analogy it’s like winning the lottery on a Saturday evening and by Sunday tea time it’s all spent. That’s the scale of what we do every day. Ultimately, the decisions in Transforming Your Care are not about how to cut what we spend, but to look closely at how we spend the £10 million. In fact, our budgets continue to rise modestly at the moment, but we also know that demand for our services is rising faster.
So it’s absolutely essential that we start making the change now to ensure that we continue to have a safe, strong, resilient and progressive health and social care system in Northern Ireland for years to come.
The debate is often focussed on hospitals, particularly Emergency Departments. Actually, around £6 of every £10 we spend is on care outside hospitals, and this is a trend which will continue if more services are be provided locally, so it’s important that we listen to views on a whole range of health and social care issues.
And let me assure you we are not making these decisions in a closed room. From last summer, when the original Transforming Your Care Review was started, we have been out talking openly to patients, carers, services users, political representatives, community and voluntary, and staff on the front-line. This has been important in helping shape the journey so far, and we will continue these conversations.
As we speak, we have just finished 16 public meetings right across Northern Ireland and we are grateful to the hundreds of people who took the time to come along, ask questions and tell us what they think about Transforming Your Care.
There is an ongoing consultation process on the proposals in the consultation document “Transforming Your Care – Vision to Action”, which runs until 15th January 2013, and you can still get involved.
Even after January, this isn’t over. The changes themselves would take over three years, and we will want to continue to speak to people throughout, including local consultation on specific changes when they come about. Transforming Your Care is all about putting the person at the centre of what we do – so it essential we continue to listen to you, and use your views as a bedrock to build on.
I would strongly encourage you all to join the debate on the future of your health and social care in Northern Ireland.
For further information on the consultation log on to www.tycconsultation.hscni.net or telephone (028) 9055 3790 to speak to a member of the Transforming Your Care team. We’re also on Twitter and Facebook.