I was in Oldham recently. I was really taken by the experiences of the system in Oldham and Ashton when I visited Pennine Care and Michael McCourt’s team. Their Living Well Academy and work on Carers and coproduction around long term conditions is right in line with the future needs of the NHS – building capacity by aligning the efforts of the “team” that is already in place. With over 6 million people designated as “carers” and almost a million carers aged 65 plus, this has huge potential.
Oldham’s experiences of recent commissioning decisions is also indicative of the future. They were successful in bidding for new models of care for all of their community services in a partnership with all of the local GPs, the local authority and the local AgeUK team. True collaboration, aiming to bring integrated services through working together – not structural reform.
Both of these developments are good, but I wanted to share a story from the excellent CEO of Oldham Age UK Yvonne Lee.
Yvonne told me of their impressive array of services – from equipment and adaptations to befriending and direct patient care. She then told how 3 prospective partners had come to visit her. After 20 minutes they explained that they needed to go and put more change in the car parking meter. They had only paid for half an hour and two of them disappeared to sort this out. Their colleague leaned over and said
“They got you wrong love. They thought they wouldn’t be here long and were coming to see an old woman in a cardigan in a charity shop”.
Our understanding of the role of the not for profit sector in the NHS is improving – if not quite there yet . We need to exploit the potential fully. Because the sector is clearly part of the integrated team that sits around the families that we work with, the ones who will never be discharged from our care.
That has been my experience in my life as a carer – and it probably is in many of yours too. When George was born with Down Syndrome and we had a thousand questions about the future.
The wise consultant at the hospital said – “just wait, Marjorie from Leeds Mencap is coming in to see you tomorrow. She will help answer anything you want to know.” They were right. A partnership was born that saw us supported in George’s physical, emotional, educational and social needs across his whole lifetime. From using Makaton as his first language skill, through portage, peer support, speech therapy, school inclusion and right through to dancing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and beyond. Alongside many others – Bradford Down Sydrome Support Service, SNAPs, Down Syndrome Association, Me2, Down Syndrome Education International -they have played a critical part in making him who he is today.
They have done so with great kindness, skill and in line with an array of rules and regulations; a changing policy context and the toughest financial challenge for a generation. If this sounds familiar to NHS organisations, then it is. And what an opprtunity to embrace the contribution of carers and this sector in dealing with a shared endeavour and the biggest challenge for a generation.