Hansard Contribution By Lord Mawson (CB) On Tuesday 7 December 2021
My Lords, I welcome the direction of travel the Government are taking with this legislation. It is a direction of travel my colleagues and I set out on 36 years ago this year at the Bromley by Bow Centre in the East End of London. As our work today starts to go national and to scale, I thought it might be most helpful if I set out some reflections based on many years of practical experience in this space and offer encouragement to the Government to go much further.
While some have been writing reports and undertaking yet more research, my colleagues and I, through the Well North programme supported by Public Health England, have been building innovation platforms that test these ideas in practice. We have created practical projects in towns and cities across the country over the last six years, bringing together key people from the health service, local authorities, and the social enterprise and business worlds, creating a learning by doing culture and applying entrepreneurial principles to some of our most challenging health and social problems. The detail of our work can be seen on the web. Given the limitations today, I want to focus on the importance of place for one of these real projects, undertaken by people in a real place, but first I will give a few reflections based on real experience over 36 years.
First, the present machinery of the state and health service is not fit for purpose. It is not learning lessons from good practice and has little memory of what has gone before. This legislation needs to get underneath this broken machinery, understand in detail its failings and lack of delivery, and transform it. Secondly, a modern health and care service in an enterprise economy is all about people and relationships and the building of trust between people; it is not centrally about process. Thirdly, the health narrative is out of date. If 80% of the determinants of health are social rather than biomedical, we need to seriously focus on getting upstream in the prevention agenda. It is about a new relationship between the local hospital and the context in which it is set.
Let me take to you one of these innovation platforms in north-west Surrey. I declare my interests. Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust sits within the North West Surrey Health and Care Alliance and is an anchor institution. Its focus on integration has placed it in a unique position to describe what works and what does not from the perspective of a place and the 450,000 people it serves. For this alliance, place is prime. First and foremost, subsidiarity needs to be more than just a principle. There should be a clear requirement for systems to demonstrably empower and delegate resources to place-based partnerships. Their learning is that, without tackling the wider determinants of health, it is impossible to shift the dial on the level of demand for healthcare, and this is a major contributor to the unsustainability of the health and care system.
One of the principles that is perhaps worth enshrining in the Bill is subsidiarity—passing responsibility and ownership as far down the chain as possible. Allowing individual staff as much autonomy as possible is a key element in reducing workplace stress and improving retention, enabling local areas to work out their own solutions.
The only way to act successfully against determinants of poor health is through engagement and activation of locally based resources, including the voluntary and charitable sector, statutory bodies such as borough councils, and the business sector, among others. Through placing out-patient physiotherapy services in private and local authority-run gyms and leisure centres, they have enabled individuals to reconnect socially, which they would not have been able to do in a hospital environment. They have de-medicalised the therapy and created the opportunity to get active through joining the gym, enabling people to take control of wider aspects of their well-being, as well as providing additional footfall, which drives business success and supports economic advantage and job security—win-wins all round.
The right solutions need to be developed with these communities and from within them. To do this in a successful and sustained way requires local intelligence, strong relationships and the freedom to act, which can come about only through the activation of place-based partnerships. The alliance view is that too much system interference, control and direction, even if well-meaning, gets in the way and works to prevent the active involvement of the voluntary sector, which has been shown to deliver five times as much benefit per pound spent as statutory services. In this alliance, the aim is that they are an equal partner.
Improved working together across the interface of health and social care leads to other benefits, and ICSs should have a duty to pursue these. In north-west Surrey, the hospital’s recruitment hub, set up during the pandemic to support furloughed members of the community, successfully appointed people into the hospital workforce, many of whom have now taken up permanent employment. As well as being good for the alliance, this means that local people can continue to make a positive contribution—a major determinant of well-being—and support the local economy. The hospital is now working with local schools to build ladders of opportunity from learning into careers in health and care.
The alliance has been successful in securing one of the six new Cavell integrated primary care centres in the country, in Staines. This presents a unique opportunity to bring together hospital services, primary care, social and business entrepreneurs, housing and the arts in a community setting. This team have focused together on their place and have been working together as a partnership for around five years. They have started to see the enormous potential that exists in this integrated care model.
Will the Minister agree to meet the chairman and CEO of this hospital trust so that we can share with him and the Government the lessons learned to date and the opportunities that have presented themselves, as colleagues in the alliance have simply joined the dots? A simple “yes” would do.
Link to the debate published on Tuesday 7 December 2021