Writing to the NHS of… 2088

Our CEO Ian Merrill writes…

The NHS is seventy years young, as some (cheesier) birthday cards might say. Despite the ongoing discussions around funding and sustainability of the NHS, there is an undeniable well of love and goodwill for the health service and the support that it gives to us, our friends and loved ones, at those times in all our lives when we need to call upon its expertise.

Of course, the future of the NHS does not just depend on it’s strategy alone. This birthday is a timely opportunity to set the wheels in motion for actions that will determine the long term future of the NHS. The NHS as it might be experienced by our grandchildren, or perhaps, great grandchildren.

As initially visualised in the Five Year Forward View, the role – and responsibility – that communities, civil society organisations and individuals have in helping to support the NHS to continue and thrive into the 22nd century, is becoming ever clearer.

Whatever technological and medical advances are made in the next seventy years, we hope that in addition the NHS of 2088 will, as a matter of course:

  • Involve people in the design and shape of the health services that affect them
  • Build on the evidence base that links strong community connections with happier and healthier citizens, and integrate this learning with the systems that support the marginalised in communities as well as those living with longer term health conditions
  • Work towards shared goals that have been defined together with local community infrastructure, charities and grassroots groups of all shapes and sizes

Reassuringly, none of this is new ground. Specific NHS task forces, along with many  charities and civil society actors, have for some time been advocating and implementing carefully designed programmes that demonstrate the possibilities for change. I’d like to share a few of these with you.

In Medway, our Time Credits programme is commissioned by Medway CCG as part of the Involving Medway programme which aims to build health as a social movement. The programme supports greater involvement between local people and organisations with the design and commissioning of local services.

Through our Second Half Fund programmes, supported by Nesta and DCMS, as well as the Sustainable Social Services grant from the Welsh Government, we are researching ways that Time Credits can help to mobilise the time and talents of people aged 50+, in order to reduce potential health and social care needs in later life.

Tempo have also been working closely with the NHS to enable better engagement between commissioners and community providers as part of NHS England’s personalisation plans through the Integrated Personalised Commissioning (IPC) programme in 2016-18. We will be developing this through the Personalised Care Group Learning Support programme in 2018-19.

What difference does some of this joined up thinking make? In Medway, it means that for frontline mental health community groups like Manage Your Mind, we find ways to support them to lessen their reliance on large contributions from a small number of volunteers, ensuring their survival and growth in ways that in turn lessens demand on the health service.

In Carmarthenshire, it means that for people like Stephen, he is able to take action in relation to his own health, using Time Credits to form a peer social group that helps him and others to regain their lives and live positively with visual impairment.

So Happy Birthday to the NHS – we hope it’s a good one! We look forward to strengthening and developing our relationship with you over the next seventy years. And if you’re interested in finding out more about our approach to communities, health & social care, then join us in October to hear more – we’ll be presenting at the King’s Fund event on Community is the best medicine: making a reality of place-based health