WE are living in a world of change at the moment.
Everywhere you look, things are changing, being done differently or even not being done at all anymore.
Even in local government, which is continually changing, the changes that are happening at the moment are unprecedented.
Most of the change is being driven by the cuts in funding from Government but with that, comes completely different ways of delivering services.
I’ll leave the debate over whether these cuts and changes are going too far and happening too quickly until another time but the fact is, things are going to be different and we have to adapt to it.
The challenge in local government is, despite all this change, to continue to provide the best possible services across the board with far less resources.
In this column a few weeks ago, I mentioned a big change that is affecting both the NHS and local government with the abolition of Primary Care Trusts. They are being replaced by Clinical Commissioning Groups, lead by GPs, which will be responsible for commissioning acute health services and Health and Wellbeing Boards that are responsible for commissioning public health services and holding the CCG to account.
I explained how Hartlepool’s Health and Wellbeing Board had been set up and that it was a partnership between the local authority and different health sector agencies.
One of the most challenging tasks we face is to devise a Joint Health and Wellbeing strategy for Hartlepool which will be absolutely vital when it comes to deciding where we need spend our limited funding in order to improve people’s health across the town.
We recently held a Face the Public event which was very well attended.
At this we launched our consultation on the new Health and Wellbeing strategy asking people what they thought should be in it.
The event really helped to set the scene in health terms for Hartlepool and gave people a lot of information on where the town stands statistically compared with other parts of the country.
For instance, although good progress has been made over recent years, we still have high rates of teenage pregnancy, high rates of people smoking, lower rates of child immunisation rates than most other places, lower life expectancy rates than many other areas.
In fact these statistics vary from ward to ward within the town – you can expect to live nearly ten years longer if you live in Fens or Hart Village than if you live in the town centre. Some of the statistics are quite startling and serve to highlight the magnitude of the challenge we face.
We are getting some excellent responses to the consultation on the strategy from a lot of the people and organisations we have encountered so far but we need as many people as possible to respond to this consultation in order that we can put together a strategy that actually means something and is really going to prioritise and target the areas of most concern in Hartlepool.
The more responses we get to the consultation, the more robust the strategy will be and the more confident everyone can be that money will end up being spent in the correct areas.
It has never been more important that every penny is directed to an area that absolutely needs it and anyone who has had concerns about how public health funding is spent now has the change to influence it in the future.
If you have access to the internet, the easiest way to participate is to take part in our public health survey online. It will take you no longer than ten minutes and will really help us get a feel for people’s priorities.
The address is www.surveymonkey.com/s/HWBstrategyHBC12 or just go to the front page of the Council’s website; www.hartlepool.gov.uk and click on the link. Hurry up though because the survey closes on Monday, September 17.
We also have a health priorities exercise on-going at a number of libraries, community centres and medical centres across the town.
Members of the public are asked to spend £25 (virtual pounds) on health services and put their money into a number of boxes which represent the priority areas of public health service delivery.
This really tests the mind because everyone finds that they don’t have enough money to spend on everything they would want to so they really have to think about which areas they are going to prioritise and why.
This pretty much mirrors the types of decisions that the Health and Wellbeing Board will have to make when they commission services so this exercise will give us a clear idea of what services the public values most.
The exercise will be available for the rest of the week in the following venues.
Today – One Life centre and Throston youth centre. Tomorrow – Central Library, Hindpool childrens’ centre, McKennzie practice and Rossmere youth centre on the evening. Friday – Central Library, McKennzie practice. Saturday – Central Library.
We are also hoping to get the exercise set up in the Middleton Grange shopping centre over the weekend.
I will certainly keep people updated on the progress of the Health and Wellbeing strategy as our priorities start to emerge.
It will be all systems go over the next few weeks and there will be opportunities for people to feed into the process later on as things start to take shape and when we have the draft strategy ready.
The really important time to have your say however, is right now. This is when your voice will be loudest and this is when the opportunity to influence the content of the strategy will be strongest.
Ultimately, we all want to improve our own health and the health of our neighbours so getting this Health and Wellbeing strategy to meet the town’s needs is crucial, don’t miss the chance to play your part.