Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Kidwelly leading way

Column published in the Llanelli Herald on February 13th 2016

The media has been full of the “crisis” in the NHS this week.

The British Red Cross went as far as saying the health service in England was facing a "humanitarian crisis" this winter.

Thankfully the NHS in Wales is being run differently from the health service across the border, but nobody is under any illusion about the pressures that it faces.

We are demanding more and more from the NHS. I find it astonishing that the average age of a patient in Prince Philip Hospital is 83!

It is a huge achievement of modern health care that people are living longer, but our later years are often spent in poor health and that is putting huge pressure on the health and social care services. Indeed, Doctors at PPH tells me that most of the elderly patients there often have multiple chronic conditions, and even after they've been treated for the condition they were admitted for can’t be sent home because of their other conditions..

Our health service has to change and adapt to meet these new demands. And it’s not only the demands of the patient that are changing, but the staff have changing needs too. GPs, for example, increasingly want to work part-time, and to mix their duties at a local surgery with hospital or University work.

Last week I welcomed Welsh Health Secretary Vaughan Gething to Kidwelly to see a new model GP surgery in action.

This time last year the Minafon surgery was in crisis after the existing GPs left. The practice was taken over by the Hywel Dda Health Board and in the absence of a full complement of Doctors they designed a team of health professionals who could support a smaller team of GPs.

Local patients can now see an advanced nurse who can prescribe, a physiotherapist and a pharmacist, alongside a telephone support service. It's a smarter way working and offers more services locally. For example, the pharmacist, is conducting a review of all patients at the surgery who suffer from asthma and reviewing their medication with them - this is something an overstretched GP wouldn’t have time to do.

This offers a model for all GP surgeries, but because most are in effect run as private businesses by the Doctors, it is harder to bring about the changes than one directly run by the health board- like Minafon on Kidwelly. However, as more and more surgeries struggle to find the Doctors they need change may well happen organically.

It does go to show that often the pressures on the system can produce changes for the better.

But change is rarely easy, and in a service we all value so deeply, can cause deep concern. That’s why its so important that we are honest and open about the challenges and listen to patients to mke sure changes are carefully thought through.

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