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What does 2017 hold in store for the region’s NHS?

PUBLISHED: 07:30 10 January 2017 | UPDATED: 11:00 10 January 2017

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is experiencing very high demand from patients. Picture: James Bass; Copy: Rebecca Gough; For: EN News; Evening News © 2009  (01603) 772434

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is experiencing very high demand from patients. Picture: James Bass; Copy: Rebecca Gough; For: EN News; Evening News © 2009 (01603) 772434

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

A new year has dawned on an NHS which is rarely out of the headlines. But what are the key issues facing the health service in our region? Health correspondent Nicholas Carding explains what to expect in 2017.

The overview

A brief glimpse into the future can fill many NHS chiefs with dread.

If changes to the way our NHS works are not made then the health service in East Anglia is faced with a catastrophic increase in demand and a devastating worsening of public health in the next decade.

But chiefs hope to deal with this through their ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ - the details of which should become clearer this year.

Despite its boring name, the plan (or STP as it is known) should be at the root of virtually every health decision made in 2017 - regardless of the organisation making it.

Critics believe the STP are secret NHS plans to cut services, but in our region it is too early to tell. Hopefully 2017 will give us a better idea.

Hospitals

It is widely accepted that the state of the hospitals can give a strong indication of the current state of our NHS as a whole.

And a glance at our own acute hospitals in this region paints a picture of huge pressures, with longer waiting times and many medically fit patients not being discharged fast enough.

2017 is a big year for the largest hospital in our region - the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - which needs to rid itself of the shackles associated with financial special measures.

The measures, imposed by NHS regulators last summer, have temporarily halted the hospital’s expansion plan, despite the fact that chief executive Mark Davies says the premises are not large enough to cater properly for demand.

Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn will hope to appoint a new chief executive once Dorothy Hosein departs the trust in April.

Mental health

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is out of special measures, but its bosses cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

The trust is under pressure to end this financial year (which ends on March 31) with savings worth £10m, and also expects to record a £4.8m deficit.

The latest public figures show numbers of patients treated out of area have increased in recent months, at a cost to the trust - while chiefs will hope the government’s commitment to an extra £1bn to the front-line will be delivered as fast as possible.

Meanwhile bosses at private facility Mundesley Hospital will be keen to put improvements in place as fast as possible after being placed in special measures last month. NHS patients are often treated at the hospital.

Primary and community care

As the region’s sustainability and transformation plan continues to develop - more attention will turn to Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust.

The organisation is central to the NHS’ aim of transferring more care out of hospitals and into the community.

Meanwhile the development of the new GP alliance ‘OneNorwich’ will play a vital role in helping doctors cope with soaring demand.

Out-of-hours GP and NHS 111 provider IC24 will also be expected to better its performance, after seeing its Norfolk and Wisbech service rated as ‘requires improvement’ by the CQC. The service in Great Yarmouth and Waveney is rated as ‘good’.

Ambulance Service

We can expect to hear more stories of long waiting times for patients who have dialled 999 this year, with the number of 999 callers rising rapidly.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust must also sort out recruitment and retention issues, with question marks hanging over the delayed training to some students and staff welfare issues such as late finishes and meal breaks.

Missed response time targets are likely to continue across the majority of the region, while reducing spending on private ambulances will be a key aim.

Clinical commissioning groups

The next two years could be the toughest yet for the keepers of the keys to the region’s NHS bank account.

A significant amount of the extra money the NHS asked for in its Five Year Forward View has been given by the government, meaning funding increases over the next two years will be minimal.

Norfolk and Suffolk’s seven CCGs will be desperate to save every penny, which means more services are likely to be reduced or cut this year.

Small NHS services that cater for few patients are particularly at risk, while there is also the potential to see managers take on dual roles across two or more CCGs.

Finally, at a national level, it is worth noting the date of April 24 this year. On that day it will be exactly two and a half years since NHS England boss Simon Stevens published his Five Year Forward View - the document which set out his vision for the NHS up to 2020.

Both supporters and critics will be eager to hear his view on how that vision is panning out.

Have you got a health story?

Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk


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