Plans for greater integration of health and social care services in West Norfolk have been described as “inspiring” by a government minister.
The West Norfolk Alliance, which was formally launched at a conference in Lynn on Friday, aims to improve services to patients, while also plugging an expected £100 million funding gap over the next seven years.
Care minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb told the meeting at the College of West Anglia that the sector was heading for a “perfect storm” of reduced resources and rising costs unless its work was done differently.
He said: “I applaud you for the work you’re doing. It’s inspiring and I wish you all the very best with it.”
The alliance brings together health bodies including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (WNCCG), West Norfolk and Norfolk County Councils and representatives of the voluntary sector.
They plan to pool money, staff and expertise, and develop early community care and support programmes.
And workers will be able to access services from other bodies, something they have not been permitted to do before.
Officials say that, by working more closely together, they can streamline the system, make it easier for people to get the help they need without them having to go into hospital and spend public money more efficiently.
As first reported in the Lynn News in January, the WNCCG is facing a £50 million funding shortfall by 2021, while other service providers are facing similar financial pressures.
And Dr Sue Crossman, WNCCG’s chief officer, warned: “If we continue to deliver health and social care in the way we currently do , it will be unaffordable in the future.”
The alliance’s initial work will focus on care for the elderly, which was highlighted as a particular area of concern because of our aging population.
Nationally, the number of people living to the age of 85 is expected to double by 2030, while the numbers living with several combined health problems is likely to reach three million over the next decade.
And Dr Crossman said West Norfolk had “a particularly acute problem” in that area.
The alliance also claims patients will have greater control over their care, through the expansion of personal care budgets and a partnership approach between the patient and health professionals.
Harold Bodmer, director of community services for Norfolk County Council, said: “It makes clinical and financial sense to join up these services.
“Working more closely together will not only create efficiencies and improvments, but will allow us to create a new system of care built around the needs of our people.”
Mr Lamb added: “Too often our health and care system provides services that suit the needs of health organisations, not the patients they are serving. It is fantastic to see the proactive approach that is being taken here in West Norfolk.”