Unless you work for the NHS, your contact with the service is probably with front line workers like doctors and nurses.
They are some of the many healthcare people who provide the services you can rely on in an emergency or simply for routine care.
But behind the scenes a lot of co-ordination is needed to make sure those services are of the right quality, in the right place, available at the right time and delivered by the right people.
I have a good overview of the work of the NHS in Doncaster. I spend part of my time as a working GP in Bentley, providing a service direct to patients, and the remainder of my working week as Chair of NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, which arranges and funds the local health services you depend on.
It’s an interesting dynamic. For some time, the NHS environment has been one of hospitals, GPs and community services competing for healthcare ‘business’ and staff, and often all offering similar services.
But the future NHS will depend more on collaboration, with all providers coming together and working better across a wider geographical patch. In some cases this may include specialising in providing a particular service for a wider community than they currently do.
One of the tools to support this change are Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and you may have seen or heard lots about them in the news recently. England has been divided into 44 areas and Doncaster is in the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ‘footprint’.
We know we have to ‘re-engineer’ how the NHS works to get the best outcomes for patients and this is part of the local STP’s role. In some cases this will mean re-organising services to meet the changing needs of patients, including managing the on-going care of an ever aging population with multiple conditions.
We have to take action sooner rather than later because, as I can vouch, the pressures are definitely mounting within the health service. The national shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals has reached crisis point in some specialties, prompting a review of how these services can still be provided, but perhaps in fewer places. This is an opportunity to develop centres of excellence and even improve current care.
We also cannot escape the fact that the NHS does not have an unlimited supply of money. All health care organisations have to live within their means and resources. At times this involves making difficult decisions so we can get the best results for the maximum number of patients. This is not what I expected when I became a doctor but we accept this is needed going into the future.
Over the next few weeks Healthwatch Doncaster will be talking to local people and groups about the South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw STP and gathering views about what you think of its aims and ambitions. Please visit https://www.healthwatchdoncaster.org.uk/