The NHS across Sussex has set out the immediate and long-term priorities for improvement to health services for local people.
Health and care services across the whole country have been under increasing pressure for many years due to growing numbers of people needing to use them. This winter has been one of the most challenging for the NHS and this has meant not everyone has received the right care, at the right time, or in the right place for their needs over recent months.
A lot of work has taken place to manage the pressures and ensure local people continue to receive safe and high-quality care. Additional measures were put in place across Sussex health and care organisations over the very busy New Year period which helped ease some of the pressure.
However, services are expected to remain very busy and more long-standing changes and improvements need to be made to make sure the pressures being seen today do not become the norm or get worse.
There are many reasons for the increasing pressure on services, including:
- The growing and ageing population in Sussex that means more people than ever now need support and care.
- The need to continue reducing the waiting lists for planned operations and procedures that built up during the pandemic.
- Shortages of staff and expertise to do everything that needs to be done.
Additionally, more needs to be done to help prevent people becoming ill in the first place and to reduce the big differences in health that exist for people living in different parts of Sussex, particularly those who are most disadvantaged.
To tackle these issues, health and care organisations across Sussex have agreed short-term and long-term priorities for improvement that will bring about the biggest benefit for local people.
Over the coming year, improvements will be made across four key areas:
- Increasing access to and reducing variability in primary care – to help more people get appointments at their GP practice as quickly as possible.
- Improving response times to 999 calls and reducing emergency department waiting times – to help the sickest patients get the emergency care they need as quickly as possible.
- Reducing diagnostic and planned care waiting lists – to help people get the operation or procedure they need as quickly as possible.
- Accelerating patient flow through the system and discharge from hospitals – to help make sure people do not have to stay in hospital any longer than absolutely necessary.
In addition to these immediate priorities, a five-year Sussex Integrated Care Strategy has been published called ‘Improving Lives Together’. This sets out the long-term ambition to improve our health and care services in Sussex by:
- Building integrated community teams and local partnerships across Brighton & Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex – to allow services and organisations to work in a joined-up way to better meet the needs of each local community.
- Growing and supporting our health and care workforce – to attract more people to work in health and care, as well as supporting and developing the skills or careers of our existing staff.
- Improving the use of digital technology and information – to help join-up our services and enable people to access advice or care more easily.
This strategy builds on work that is already taking place and has been set out in the Health and Wellbeing Strategies in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex, and has been agreed by the Sussex Health & Care Assembly, which is a new joint committee between NHS Sussex, Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and West Sussex County Council, with a broad membership from voluntary and community organisations, Healthwatch, universities, further education, housing and the Sussex Chamber of Commerce.
Adam Doyle, Chief Executive Officer of NHS Sussex and Leader of the Sussex Health and Care System, said:
This winter has been extremely challenging for the NHS and a significant amount of work is taking place all the time across system partners to make sure local people get the support and care they need. Staff are working extremely hard and we have put in additional measures that have made a difference. We need to go further and not only continue to focus on managing issues day-to-day, but also look forward and make more long-term changes and improvement. By setting out these priorities for improvement, all system partners will be able to collectively commit to focus on bringing about the biggest benefit for local people and our staff now and in the future.”
Stephen Lightfoot, Chair of NHS Sussex and the Sussex Health & Care Assembly, said:
We have a great opportunity as a system to make improvements in our health and care services to meet the needs of the 1.7 million people living in Sussex. We also have the collective commitment across all of our partners to make the changes that are necessary over the next 5 years. The issues facing health and care are well known, and we cannot do everything straight away, which is why it is so important that we have a clear plan of what we will do in the short, medium and long term. We have involved all our partners and over 3,000 members of the pubic in the development of this strategy and we will continue this level of engagement as we turn this vision into a reality and an improvement that local people can see.”
A Shared Delivery Plan is currently being developed and will be published in April to set out the specific actions and improvements across each of these priority areas.