Happy birthday, NHS!

Today is our NHS’s 74th Birthday. This huge milestone should be celebrated, despite the trials and tests the NHS has faced over the last few years, it continues to serve generations of Bristolians. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone, present and past, who have helped make the NHS the success that it is.

The NHS was set up to provide a one-sized-fit-all approach to providing health care for sick people. However, despite its success, this approach cannot meet the increasingly complex needs and expectations of today’s population. The challenges and population needs that the NHS of 1948 aimed to address have changed beyond recognition today.

However, the NHS is adapting to face the challenges of population health needs of today. On 1st July, Integrated Care Systems (ICS’s) were established in England. Integrated Care Systems reverse a lot of the contentious reforms that former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley brought in. Integrated Care Systems will help the NHS move away from competition and toward collaboration. They are designed to ensure health and care services work more closely together, creating space for local authorities to become equal partners with the NHS in the design and delivery of health services. It also recognises that citizens and the voluntary sector are key partners and looks to breaking down barriers between physical health, mental health and social care services.

NHS frontline services won’t immediately, but over time, health and care services will become more personalised and joined up around people’s needs.

As a system, in Bristol and BNSSG we’ve developed a shared vision that drives population health, health promotion and keeping people well and independent for as long as possible. We have done this in recognition of the fact that the inequalities that impact on the health and wellbeing of some groups of people must also be addressed. Chair of the One City Health and Wellbeing Board, and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Integrated Care System, Cllr Helen Holland has been at the forefront supporting Bristol to seize the opportunities that ICS’s present and ensuring that Bristol’s health and wellbeing priorities are front and centre of the shared vision of the emerging Integrated Care System.

While these are encouraging reforms, the scale of the challenge that faces health, social care and societal wellbeing is massive. The challenges presented by COVID-19 persist; there is a huge backlog of elective surgeries, demand for mental health services continues to soar and we are still yet to see the medium and long-term effects of long COVID. Indeed, as we face a cost-of-living crisis demand for services will inevitably increase while the cost of delivering those services will continue to soar – stretching services further and thinner. Already 98 per cent of local authorities believe that the Government’s Adult Social Care charging reforms are likely hugely underfunded, which will risk the implementation of the reforms, as well as exacerbating existing pressures on the Adult Social Care system. If we want to continue to celebrate the success and birthdays of the NHS, Government must urgently address the challenges that Adult Social Care faces.

There is a big opportunity to get this right in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire’s ICS where we can look at improving people’s outcomes, experience of health, care and wellbeing services, and tackling inequalities in our area. Our ICS is marking its establishment by launching a nine-week public engagement exercise to hear what matters most to you. We want to know what keeps you happy, healthy, and well – and what gets in the way. This will help the ICS set its priorities and strategy for the coming years. We are asking people to share their views through this survey and a series of events across the summer.