SPECIAL REPORT: Neighbourhood Teams taking the strain off the NHS
No secret has been made of the pressure on our NHS service, with GP surgeries struggling to cope with patient demand, rising costs of A&E services and full hospital beds.
But the use of new ‘Neighbourhood Teams’ (NTs) is aiming to change that by reducing the need of trips to the GP and avoiding long stays in hospital.
We only want people going to hospital if they have to
An NT is made up of district nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, mental health nurses, integrated support workers and community matrons.
The programme that covers South Lincolnshire is in its early days, but works closely with the voluntary sector, emergency services including the fire service and police, bodies such as the job centre, and the district and county council.
The team that covers Spalding is already up and running and teams will follow to cover Holbeach and the Suttons; Bourne; the Deepings and Stamford, bringing together GP surgeries in each area.
Chairman of South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group Dr Kevin Hill, said: “It’s about getting different organisations talking to each other, for them to work more efficiently together.
“So something that may have taken, for example, two years to sort out may now be done in 30 seconds.”
NTs will treat people in their own homes, where possible, to avoid trips back and forth to the GP, and to get them back into their own homes as quickly as possible after a hospital stay.
So a person with back pain could be referred directly to a physiotherapist, without having to see a GP first.
“Market Deeping is trialling having a Musculoskeletal physiotherapist (at the Deepings Practice).
“You phone the practice and they can send you to see the physio,” Dr Hill added.
“The aim is getting people the right help at the right time.”
“We only want people going to hospital if they have to go there, such as for a hip replacement or an MRI scan.
“Treatment that is mobile, for example diabetes care, can be done in the home.”
Emphasis will also be put on self-care, with the support of the NT, in tackling issues including obesity.
This might mean people are signposted to community services such as health walks or other support via the local council.
“A lot of problems are social as well as health,” added Dr Hill.
“So if you have a low mood it can be associated with housing problems etc.
“Support can be put in place to help those people”.
Another example of how the NT works could be in the case of the police being called out to a report of someone being violent.
Dr Hill said: “If that person has a mental health issue the police will be able to see that he is known to us and we can get the person the help they need.”
The aim is to have NTs up and running fully in our area by April, following a recent pilot in Gainsborough.
Teams across Lincolnshire as a whole should be in place by April next year.
The fire service, through its Safe and Well checks can already identify people who may need extra health or social support while undertaking home fire safety assessments.
A fire officer may notice somebody having a problem with mobility - or identify a lifestyle factor that could affect their health and refer them to the body that can provide support.
South Holland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health, Coun Christine Lawton, said: “We are pleased to be working with partners to deliver this new way of working. Building on our local partnerships with strong communication between agencies, we will be able to give the right support in the right place at the right time for our local residents.”
The council will provide local knowledge of social, leisure and community activities as well as services such as community transport and support groups.
It will also give advice and support on local housing options and adaptations.
“Neighbourhood Teams are not a one size fits all,” Dr Hill said.
“The east coast would need something different to central Lincolnshire.”
But the message is that early intervention and getting different organisations talking more efficiently will help get people the care they need.
Where people may have felt they were previously passed from ‘pillar’ to ‘post’ NTs aim to stop that, and shape healthcare for the future.
○ David Fannin, Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service, said: “This is about bringing together our ability to help and support people to improve their health and well-being as part of a whole system .
“The COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) clinic in Spalding is one example of integrated working.”
The clinic, which runs at the Ivo Day Centre in Spalding, provides support for people with breathing problems and also offers advice and support on self-care.
“The GPs and health services are doing everything they can from a medical point of view but what a COPD clinic does is provide a community setting where people can share their experiences,” he said.
“We provide activities such as Laughter Yoga, gentle Tai Chi, information and advice. That support helps to ‘lift’ people and helps them self-manage and self-care.
“The Neighbourhood Team is not doing anything new or radical but will mean a much more coordinated way of providing health and social care and helping to identify people at risk of deteriorating health, meaning they are less likely to go to their GP as often or to A&E.”