By Ann Atkinson, Assembly Develpment Officer
It is very pleasing to see that there is now a strong commitment from the County Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust to build on the strengths of people in our communities to improve health and well-being which is evidenced in key strategic policies. This means ensuring that communities have a voice in identifying their needs and priorities, are involved in planning and delivery, provided with the support they need and have increased control over their lives.
It is recognised that our communities across the county are complex and diverse and that a local approach will be essential to improve health and well-being. Northumberland County Council, in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, is committed to supporting the employment of a Locality Coordinator in each of the five local area council areas (localities) until March 2021 with the voluntary and community sector hosting the Coordinators. The Locality Coordinators will seek to map and mobilise the knowledge, skills and time of individuals and the resources of community groups, link people to those assets, and increase the control people have over their lives, helping to build resilience, promote community cohesion and enhance quality of life.
People associate good health with having a purpose in life, feeling valued, being able to do the activities they enjoy and getting out and meeting people. A key driver is therefore feeling part of the community so connecting people and creating community is a key activity. The voluntary and community sector are key players in this approach and there is certainly an appetite from the sector to work with public sector partners collaboratively to improve health and well being across Northumberland as equal partners and with an equal contribution to make. However it is evident that co-design and co-production in the development of strategies, plans and services still has some way to go with commissioners recognising the involvement required of the voluntary sector and communities and willingness to share responsibility.
Whilst recognising that some progress is being made, there are questions that spring to mind in moving this approach forward. Are partners ready to devolve power? Do health professionals see the social determinants of health as equally important as medical interventions? It is estimated for example that 30%- 40% of GP appointments are for non-medical issues.
Health is not driven by medicine, and building healthy communities can only come about when we improve collaboration with stakeholders, NHS providers, CCG, local authority, health and social care providers, police, fire, housing association, voluntary and community groups etc. This requires understanding the relationship between economic, social and environmental health determinants and health outcomes at a local level, focusing on actions that will make a difference and recognising that doctors, medicines and hospitals play a minor role.