09/05/2018

Dept Of Health Announces Major Investment To Enhance Primary Care

A series of important initiatives are to be funded under the £100 million Health and Social Care transformation fund, the Department of Health has announced.

The planned package of investments for 2018/19 includes £15m for enhancing primary care – care which is largely provided by GP practices.

This will include some £5m for the roll-out of Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) at GP practices. These involve the establishment of practice-based physiotherapists, mental health specialists and social workers - working alongside doctors and nurses to better meet the needs of the local population.

The roll-out of MDTs this year will cover two areas initially, each serving in the region of 100,000 people.

Developing Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) at GP clinics represents health and social care transformation in action, helping provide more care closer to people's homes. This will have the added benefit of easing demand pressures on hospitals.

It is hoped that success across the MDT pilot areas will lead to the initiative being extended to GP practices across the province in the years ahead.

Further projected investments under the £100m transformation funding also include:

• £15m for workforce development in the Health and Social Care sector. This funding will support a key transformation goal of developing new and innovative ways of working together across health and social care.

• Up to £30m for reforming community and hospital services, including mental health and pharmacy. This funding will help implement new strategies for key services including cancer services; stroke services; paediatric services; medicines optimisation; and diabetes care and prevention. It will also support the reconfiguration agenda, by investing in plans for Elective Care Centres - stand-alone day surgery units that will make a major contribution to tackling hospital waiting times.

• £5m will be invested in a range of interventions which will enable transformation. This will include a range of targeted actions aimed at strengthening the voice of those who use and those who deliver HSC services so that they play a key role in developing and implementing new ways of working. Further areas of investment will build capacity for quality improvement across the system, as well as investment in technology and supporting innovation.

• £5m on building capacity in communities and prevention, including significant investment in children’s social services to fund a new approach to working with parents and families and to provide a different offer to children in care to better meet their needs.
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It was recently announced that £30m of the £100m funding for 2018/19 will be targeted at reducing hospital waiting times. This is in line with the Bengoa and Delivering Together reports on transformation, which cited the need to address waiting times as a stabilisation measure.

This funding will allow up to a further 24,000 outpatient assessments and approximately 7,400 treatments to be carried out; along with 19,000 diagnostics to reduce the number of people presently waiting longer than 26 weeks.

In addition, an estimated 24,000 Allied Health Professional assessments can be provided to reduce the current backlog of patients waiting longer than 13 weeks, mainly for physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

Trusts have been tasked with deploying the funding to assess and treat as many clinically urgent patients as possible and prioritise patients waiting the longest times.

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed clarity over the allocation of money to transform the health service, saying the focus must be on primary care and community services to ensure a successful transformation.

Ms Bradshaw said: "The key issue with the development of primary care teams and focus on it, is it means fewer people will be referred on to waiting lists in the first place. Delivered correctly, this will see people access the care, medication and treatment they need sooner. That is why we must continue to make progress with the transformation process, regardless of the political position.

"This is not a matter of figures on a page. A person on a waiting list may be a worker, a carer, a key player in the local community or in a local club - and the knock-on effect not just of the waiting list itself but of the stress and uncertainty which goes with the wait cannot be underestimated. Being on a waiting list can see a person's life put on hold - and the lives of those around them. The allocation of this money is a reflection that this requires both short-term and long-term interventions.

"The scale of the waiting list crisis is also encouraging the development of a two-tier health service, with many people feeling they have no option but to go private while those who cannot afford that are left to wait. If we are to avoid that being permanent, we need to act not just on resourcing reductions in waiting times immediately but also on a longer term transformation of primary care to develop multi-disciplinary teams and other services at point of access to serve larger population areas. Our current set-up means we have too many people being placed on to waiting lists in the first place rather than receiving the care they need swiftly.

"Targeted wisely, this money can begin to tackle this and thus bring down waiting times and improve the service immediately at point of access. It is important this boosts progress on the broader transformation agenda."

(MH/LM)

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