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CCG Profile: West Suffolk

CCG Profile: West Suffolk

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Recognising the wants and needs of West Suffolk clinical commissioning group’s patient population is shaping the way it delivers care  

The West Suffolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) serves a population of 235,000 through its 25 GP practice members. 

The CCG geographical reach covers the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds, through the horse-racing mecca of Newmarket, to Sudbury, the birth town of noted 18th century painter Thomas Gainsborough and Lakenheath, home of a US Air Force base. The reach of the CCG also includes many small rural towns including Brandon and the rural villages of Stanton and Woolpit, meaning there are a diverse range of communities which the CCG serves. 

You might already be imaging an affluent area of quaint thatched cottages populated with a largely healthy population. To some extent this is true, with recent Office of National Statistics figures suggesting life expectancy in some parts of west Suffolk reaching as high as 119.  

However, to assume this would be to ignore the very real pockets of poverty that exist in west Suffolk, such as the town of Haverhill, where it is estimated 17% of children live in poverty, as well as underestimating the challenges affecting a rural CCG in reaching the high number of people who live in remote locations without easy access to transport and health care facilities.

The CCG has a budget of £286.6 million and is led by eight GPs, one secondary care lead and two lay members, one responsible for governance and the other for patient and public engagement.

Since its inception, the CCG has made it clear that its ambition to deliver the highest quality healthcare locally can only be achieved by effective partnership working with patients, local authorities, the voluntary sector and charitable organisations. 

Crucially, we do not consider the CCG as a stand alone organisation. Instead we are committed to the idea of integrated working with our partners and stakeholders to deliver the best results for patients.

Not long ago, a patient came up to me and said “The CCG has a reputation for listening to local people” – that was a huge compliment and shows our strategy of effective patient engagement is working.

The key to this success has been our commitment to talking to, listening and responding to the ideas of the local community – which has then had a direct impact on services we choose to buy.

In 2012 and 2013 we held a patient revolution conference in Bury St Edmunds which drew a crowd of 200 local people on both occasions.

These were full participation events where people really could have their say on how healthcare in West Suffolk could be best shaped to meet local needs. 

Using an ‘open space’ technique delegates at the conferences were able to set their own agenda and form their own discussion groups to talk about what really mattered to them. 

The feedback provided a rich source of ideas and importantly, after each conference, we published a report highlighting the issues raised and setting out how the CCG would deal with those issues. We are already planning for our 2014 conference.

We have created a public membership group called the West Suffolk Health Forum. This is a way for patients and communities to stay in touch with the CCG and have a voice on local healthcare issues.

 Anyone in West Suffolk is welcome to join the forum and members receive regular e-mail updates, a quarterly newsletter and occasional invites to participate in surveys and projects.  

The CCG also has a community engagement group (CEG), which is a sub-committee of the board made up of local people who have an interest in healthcare. The CEG plays an active part in the healthcare commissioning decision-making process. 

Notably, in the town of Haverhill, we have worked hard to engage with the local community to improve the reputation of the NHS. 

Residents of Haverhill, an expanding market town on the edge of Suffolk and bordering Cambridgeshire and Essex, fought hard against the closure of the town’s minor injuries unit in 2012 by the primary care trust.  

Local people felt that the town was being abandoned by the NHS and could not see the justification for the closure. 

The CCG is currently working on a health needs assessment in partnership with Suffolk County Council and this is the first time in Suffolk that such work has been targeted on a town basis.

One of the issues raised by many people was the need for information on local health services to be easily accessible. We listened and set about creating a new website – www.westsuffolkccg.nhs.uk

One of the biggest issues with website creation is ensuring that the site is relevant, up-to-date and easy to understand. 

We asked members of our health forum to help create our website, finding out from them what information they would like to have at hand and how this could be best presented. 

What we now have is a website which is a modern and clean one-stop shop of local health information for our local population.

Of course, we recognise that websites are not for everyone. 

Having a large number of elderly residents as well as patchy broadband services means that to rely solely on electronic communication would leave many people out of the loop. 

Talking face-to-face is one of the best ways of raising awareness of the role of the NHS West Suffolk CCG, as well as getting more people to take an active interest in their health and healthcare services. 

Since our inception, our staff have been travelling the patch meeting people at events such as the annual Suffolk Show, the Indian Mela and Suffolk Pride. 

This summer has seen us create the West Suffolk Health Roadshow where we set up market stalls at the local weekly markets in many of our towns. 

The market stalls were manned by CCG staff as well as our local partners Healthwatch Suffolk, Age UK and the county’s healthy living provider, LiveWell Suffolk. They were a great opportunity to inform people of our work as well as listen to local concerns. 

Through listening and engaging we have made commissioning decisions which reflect what people have told us which include:

 - Committing an extra £200,000 in funding for new breastfeeding initiatives.

 - Delivering a brand new health centre in Sudbury – local people had been waiting for over 30 years for the new building. The new centre is due to open next year.

 - Enabling patients with certain eye conditions to be treated by their local ophthalmologist instead of going to hospital.

 - Commissioning a new primary care support service to the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Although 2013 is just the start of the journey for the CCG, we are already planning further major improvements, based on what people in west Suffolk are telling us are needed.  

The year ahead will see the development of a strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of the 25,000 family carers in our area; improvements to the effectiveness of care to diabetic patients and the commissioning of a new autism service which will provide quicker diagnosis and better ongoing care.

It is certainly early days in the life our CCG, as with every other CCG in the country. What we do know from this first year of authorisation is the importance of listening to what people are saying. 

If a CCG doesn’t listen and respond to what the local community is saying, it will be impossible for that CCG to say it is working effectively in delivering high quality services that local people need and want.

So, open your ears and listen! 

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