Forging an alliance with the NHS

Cllr Ketan Sheth

If local councils and the NHS do not work together as trusted equal partners, our residents are the ones that lose out.

In Brent, our local communities were among those most affected by the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the local hospital, Northwick Park, making the national headlines having been caught in the eye of the storm, which acutely demonstrated the terrible impact of health inequalities on real lives.

We are, of course, particularly reliant on our NHS partners to provide emergency services, planned elective care, and a full and complex mix of outpatient and specialist services, including mental health and community services.

Likewise, NHS staff are reliant on local councils (and other local partners) playing their part in delivering a seamless patient pathway, that can go from a first GP visit right through to a tailored social care package.

Delivering high quality, equitable health services take detailed planning and a solid grasp on the needs of local communities.

In Brent, we have seen increasing levels of partnership working with the local NHS trust. Collaboration is made easier because London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust (LNWH) shows a refreshingly genuine commitment to gaining a deep appreciation of the views, concerns, and perspectives of our local populations. This is reflected in the development of the trust’s new five-year strategy

In addition to undertaking vast analysis of public health, demographic and other data relating to our communities, LNWH sought engagement right from the start. The trust co-created a strategy with the help of almost 900 local community members and 40 representatives from local authority and partner organisations. Over 2,300 staff also contributed, many of who live locally and reflect the diverse population of our local communities and are frontline NHS staff who know all too well the importance of good partnership working.

I hosted one of the open forums for the trust where the local residents had an opportunity to say what they felt should be the trust’s priorities. Working in partnership with local communities and improving the quality of care came out as key themes.

This is not surprising. In Brent, our communities experience significant health inequalities when compared with regional and national levels. Local councils like Brent can only provide so much support to address these issues, so we must work with NHS partners to combat health inequalities right across our health and social care system. Indeed, we are now seeing an increased trust present at place-based and neighbourhood meetings.

One of the biggest challenges facing LNWH is the level of emergency activity. As a local council, we must work collaboratively to address systemic issues like this that the trust cannot resolve alone. Indeed, the emergency pathway is a key touchpoint for the most deprived people in Brent and partnership working presents us with a real opportunity to connect them earlier with more appropriate support in the community.

The trust’s discharge processes are perhaps the most reliant on partnership working — the NHS isn’t just its hospitals. It’s vital that we work collaboratively across organisations — the rest of the local NHS like GPs, district nursing, mental health and social care — to help the trust improve the flow of patients through its hospitals.

LNWH has called its new five-year strategy ‘Our Way Forward’. It sets out a welcome commitment to local authorities, communities, and people. We must take joint responsibility for Our Way Forward, because by working together we will forge a far better health outcomes for our residents than we can alone.

Cllr Ketan Sheth is Chair of North West London Join Health Scrutiny Committee

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