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Transformation of health service under way

Our Health Service must undergo a planned and managed change programme starting now or the consequences will be stark, Health Minister Edwin Poots today told a major conference.
Thursday, 23 February 2012

Speaking at the high-profile NICON conference on Transforming Your Care, the Review of Health and Social Care, Mr Poots said: “Northern Ireland has the fastest growing population in the UK and it continues to grow. If we fail to act on these pressures, the consequences are stark. Unplanned change, and a lack of preparation, will inevitably result in poorer care and then poorer outcomes. Without a planned and coherent approach, we will not be able to meet future health needs, and we will fail both patients and our workforce. We need to accept that change is necessary.”

In a major speech on the future of healthcare provision in Northern Ireland, Mr Poots told over 200 delegates from all over Northern Ireland that Transforming Your Care is the blueprint for improving the service and he outlined what the planned and managed changes will mean for patients.

“In Northern Ireland, we already have an integrated system of Health and Social Care. Transforming Your Care seeks to enhance and exploit the opportunities this can bring to provision services. Health and social care services will be increasingly accessible in local areas.

“There will be a changing role for General Practices which will perform an important role in the delivery of integrated care along with other health and social care providers. Patients will deal with fewer professionals and be at the centre of decision-making about their treatment. There will be a significant shift from provision of services in hospitals to provision of services closer to home; in the community and/or GP surgeries, where it is safe and effective to do so. Services will regard the patient’s home as the hub and will be facilitated to ensure that people can be cared for at home, including at the end of life," he said.

“There is an opportunity for greater use of technology to support the delivery of services. We are seeing this at present with the use of remote telemonitoring for patients with long term conditions. We must capitalise on this and exploit other opportunities where technology can support the delivery of effective services. In December, I launched the Telemonitoring NI service which should benefit some 20,000 people over the next six years. In visits to Finland and the United States, I have seen how the development and use of technology will support effective health care in future, and how the economy can benefit from research and innovation in health and life sciences. I believe Northern Ireland should be at the forefront of such developments.

“We also need to use resources more effectively, particularly in light of the most significant financial challenge the service has faced. The proposed model for care means that there will be a shift of care from hospital settings to the community, and accordingly there will be a shift in the resources as funds are reallocated in line with the service delivery.”

During his keynote address, the Minister said that, with Transforming Your Care, change will be based around his vision of delivering high quality care for patients. However, he added that while it may take up to five years to implement the review in full, the process must begin immediately.

“Transformation will not be straight forward. It never is. It requires fundamental changes to the way we deliver and configures services. The Review envisaged a five-year timescale to put a new model in place. However let me be absolutely clear. Anyone who might imagine that we are four or five years away from fundamental change is gravely mistaken. Much of the change must happen at a very early stage. The public must be able to see and feel change within months, not years. If our health service does not feel considerably different by the end of this year, we will already have failed. We must demonstrate more integrated working and deliver more localised care. There is a huge onus on all of us in this room. The reception for Transforming Your Care tells us there is an appetite for change. We cannot afford to disappoint. We must not lose momentum,” he said.

“And make no mistake, I will hold the system to account. The challenges are indeed significant, but the expectation and need are greater. Over the next couple of weeks I will be meeting again with the five chairs of our local commissioning bodies - individuals in a crucial role in the days ahead. And I will be convening another of my regular joint meetings with the Chairs and Chief Executives of all our Trusts. I want to gauge the progress that is being made. Many of the proposals in Transforming Your Care will be taken forward by the HSC Board with whom I will meet very regularly. I will be staying closely engaged in the comprehensive ongoing programme of work we face. The next few months are absolutely critical.

Mr Poots told delegates at the Armagh conference: “I want to encourage you all to be innovative and imaginative. You will be rewarded. Those who resist or seek to obstruct change will have questions to answer - to me and to the communities they serve. No one can afford to stand still, or indeed simply to cruise. Those leading health care in Northern Ireland must be dynamic and constantly searching for continuous improvement.”

Other speakers at the NICON conference, which focused on implementing the proposals of Transforming Your Care, included: John Compton, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board, who chaired the Review Panel; Andrew McCormick who is Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety who delivered a speech on the next steps in implementation; and Ade Adepitan, London 2012 Olympics Ambassador and Wheelchair Basketball Paralympian.

Notes to editors:

1. A copy of the Minister's speech can be found on the DHSSPS website

2. NICON is part of the UK-wide NHS Confederation, and is the only membership body for all HSC organisations in Northern Ireland.

3. The conference takes place in the Armagh City Hotel. Its objectives are to: provide an opportunity for HSC, Statutory, Voluntary and Community sector leaders with an interest in health and social care to discuss Transforming Your Care policy proposals and implementation issues; and be informed by emerging best practice in other regions. The format of the event is a mixture of speakers, panel discussions and workshop sessions.

4. Transforming Your Care, the Review of Health and Social Care can be viewed here

5. Media enquiries about this press release and to request photographs, contact the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0505, or out of hours contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.