NHS England visit to Birmingham offers chance to reflect on opportunities and challenges

Cllr Mariam Khan, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, reflects on the NHS England visit to Birmingham which took place last week.

Last week, we welcomed senior figures from NHS England, including the Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard and the Chair Richard Meddings, to our city to discuss the challenges and opportunities that we face in addressing the nation’s health, which also gave us the chance to reflect on the 75th anniversary of the NHS.

I was born in Birmingham and I have lived here all of my life. My three children were born here, including my premature twins who spent the first two months of their lives under the care of the NHS staff at the neonatal unit at Heartlands Hospital.

For my young family and for people right across this city, the NHS is a reassuring presence, it's our constant guardian and the safety net that most of us turn to at important moments throughout our lives. 

So I now feel privileged as Birmingham's Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care to be working with NHS partners as we shape and design services for the future.

Ours is a city of huge potential. We have the youngest population of any city in Europe, we are attracting record levels of investment, bringing new jobs, homes, and opportunities for our growing population, and of course we are one of the most diverse cities in the UK.

However, we are also a city facing great challenges. 42% of our children grow up in relative poverty, our unemployment rate is twice the national average, and most starkly of all there is a ten-year gap in life expectancy between our richest and poorest neighbourhoods.

The representatives from NHS England visited Heartlands Hospital in East Birmingham, and the Washwood Heath CDC in my ward of Alum Rock, an area which I have been representing for over 11 years. A quarter of a million people live in East Birmingham, which puts it at roughly the same size as the cities of Derby or Southampton.

There, they heard all about the hugely positive impact the new CDC will have on over 45,000 patients a year who will benefit from the £2.18 million investment into a local area with vast health inequalities. From speaking to local patients who have already benefited from having their appointments at the diagnostics centre, I know that it is already making a difference, especially in reducing waiting times for diagnoses.

There is also transformative work taking place in the East Locality, including at the Iridium Pracitce where, on my visits to the practice, I was impressed to learn about the developments of the ‘integrated approaches to care’ as well as how the ICB is supporting primary care improvement and access – an issue which is a concern for many residents.

When considering health inequalities, high unemployment, and high levels of relative poverty, East Birmingham is one of the most deprived places in the country, with 61% of the population living in the most deprived decile.

That’s why, in Birmingham, we are working to enact our bold vision to drive Inclusive Growth in the east of our city, bringing with it new jobs, better public transport links, and better health outcomes.

Crucially, we are transforming the way that we work, focussing on early intervention and prevention, so that we can help to support people before they reach a crisis point.

But of course, we will not be able to achieve our goals on our own and working closely and collaboratively with our local Birmingham and Solihull NHS system is crucial in this.

In the year where we have celebrated the 75th anniversary of our National Health Service, it is more important than ever that we work together to meet the challenges that we face. In Birmingham, the ICS and the Council work hand-in-hand to deliver for our citizens.

I believe we can celebrate partnership and collaboration in Birmingham. Over recent years we have worked hard as a system to address poor performance in areas such as hospital discharge and our citizens have benefitted from the integrated services we have developed. And thank goodness we did, otherwise we would have been overwhelmed during the pandemic.

We have built on that success and are on the cusp of delivering further major, integrated services. One example is the development of Integrated Neighbourhood teams which will bring together health and social care, primary care and community groups in over 30 neighbourhoods.

The other example is the work we are doing to understand who the frequent users of services are, what leads to them to use services and what measures we can take to reduce the high usage. And our work on Early Intervention and Prevention will be at the heart of this initiative.

It is worth reflecting that we are making good progress because of the new partnership arrangements between the Council and the ICB. The arrangements for local decision-making through the Birmingham Place Committee are clearly supporting partnership working and the pace at which we are able to take and implement our decisions.

As Cabinet Member, Chair of the Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Board and Joint Chair of the Integrated Care Partnership, the relationship we have built with system leaders in the ICB is positive, and I believe we are in a good position to continue working together as partners to jointly work on our shared ambitions and strategies.

In conclusion, while the challenges we face today are vastly different to those of 75 years ago, nevertheless, in order to resolve them we must demonstrate the same levels of vision, the same degree of collaborative working, and the same belief in the importance of universal healthcare. This is the challenge that we face, and we must rise to it and continue to deliver for the people of Birmingham and Solihull, the region and our country.

This blog was posted on 31 July 2023.

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