The last few months have certainly been challenging for us all.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in many ways: how we work, how we shop, how we spend our spare time. We have all faced many changes; some good, some more challenging to deal with.
As a CCG, we have faced unprecedented times dealing with the coronavirus and ensuring we provide the right services to support you, our local residents, to be as safe and healthy as you can be. It was not that long ago that Doncaster was dealing with severe local flooding, this has almost been forgotten about with the current situation. We have worked hard with other health and care organisations across Doncaster to ensure we could respond to meet the needs of our patients, not only in relation to the coronavirus but also on day to day health issues.
As we publish our NHS Doncaster CCG 2019-20 Annual Report and we enter the recovery phases of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems timely to reflect on some of the positive achievements over the last year. It already seems hard to remember the days before coronavirus and so I want to reflect on just a few of the many great things we have achieved over the last year, as evidenced in our annual report.
We have made a significant investment in local mental health services this last year as we understand and appreciate how important good mental health is and how it affects all aspects of our lives.
One example of a new project we have funded is ‘Safe Space’ which was officially launched in December 2019. This new service provides out of hours support for people experiencing a mental health crisis or emotional distress, helping them to avoid having to attend their local emergency department. Based in Intake, the service is run by volunteers and provides a calm and safe environment away from a busy hospital setting.
The development of the service saw a true partnership approach, involving Doncaster CCG, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Trust, People Focused Group, Mind and Open Minds as well as service users at the heart of the service design. The service demonstrates one way we can provide the right support for anyone experiencing mental health problems at the right time and in the right way.
Feedback from one service user really highlights to me the importance of the service. When experiencing a mental health crisis one Sunday, Mark H reached out to the People Focused Group on Facebook, not knowing where else to turn. Mark said: “I was welcomed with open arms, got a referral to go to Safe Space that night where my own support plan would be created to help with housing and my isolation issues and on top of all that, I was given a Sunday dinner.
“To get away from the problems I have at home and go somewhere warm and welcoming saved my life. From feeling suicidal in the morning to helping wash up plates in the afternoon was incredible.”
I am also delighted that Doncaster is part of the children and young people’s mental health trailblazer pilot where the NHS is uniting with schools and colleges to provide expert mental health support in those settings, making it more easily accessible. It will see a real collaboration and build on the support already provided by school counsellors, nurses, educational psychologists and the voluntary sector. The service will support those children and young people with mild to moderate mental health issues and signpost those with severe needs to the right support and a link to specialist services.
We also further developed the ‘More choice, more appointments’ service to ensure people can access the right information, support, advice and treatment. It was based on feedback from a survey with local people, led by Healthwatch Doncaster. The survey found a high proportion of people found it difficult to book an appointment with their local practice.
As a local GP, I know there is a perception that patients can’t get an appointment with their GP. The ‘More choice, more appointments’ service provides alternatives for people to see a healthcare professional more easily. It’s great to see the campaign bringing together all elements of primary care including GPs, pharmacists, community nurses. It has provided 160 hours of additional GP and nurse appointments, including out of hours, giving patients greater choice and access. The campaign also reminds people that they can visit their local pharmacist if they need information, support, advice and treatment for minor conditions and ailments.
We are keen to ensure that we are meeting patient needs and so it is important that we continue to listen and strive to achieve the best. Local practices have had to change the way in which people access appointments including a change from face-to-face consultations to video and telephone consultations, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We are encouraging patients in Doncaster who have accessed healthcare support from their local practice during the Coronavirus pandemic to have their say in a new survey by Healthwatch Doncaster.
Last summer we held a community roadshow, visiting Doncaster villages on the health bus to encourage take-up of regular cancer screening appointments and to promote screening programmes. The roadshow was popular with residents and it gave people the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions in relation to screening.
I am also pleased to say that in Doncaster, cancer screening programmes are well-attended but we can still do better! Screening helps to detect cancer earlier and as screening programmes start to step up again following the pandemic, I would really encourage you to take up any invitation for screening.
The Dementia Post Diagnosis Service has also developed significantly over the last year. The service provides three levels of support – high, medium and low. A single point of access and triage system ensures the right level of care is provided at the right time following diagnosis. The service is a real reflection of effective partnership working to meet the needs of patients and involves RDaSH, Making Space, Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Royal Voluntary Service and Choices 4 Doncaster.
And finally, I must mention the outstanding rating that Doncaster CCG received in July 2019. This was the third year in a row and it is a fantastic achievement as well as a great tribute to our staff and the local organisations we work with. Our staff, along with staff in other health and care organisations in Doncaster, work tirelessly to do the best for our patients. Their commitment and dedication to improving services has continued throughout the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their ongoing commitment to improving local health care services across Doncaster.