Quiet revolution happeningIt is with a certain degree of sadness that I am stepping down as Chair of the CCG. It was a difficult decision, but given pressures at my Practice, the challenge of helping to manage a CCG and the increasing need for me to be at home looking after poorly loved ones, it was the only decision I could make. I feel confident though that I am leaving the CCG in excellent hands. Geoff Little (Accountable Officer), Will Blandamer (heading up commissioning) and Lynne Ridsdale (Geoff’s deputy and heading up our corporate services) are a highly talented and successful team, and I am sure Dr. Cathy Fines will do a brilliant job as she takes over the reins from me and steps into the CCG Chair role.

Change is always a useful time to reflect on past successes and challenges, and also to consider the future.

I have been privileged to watch as the CCG has moved on from being a standalone health commissioning organisation and focused on health, to be fully integrated with Bury Council. Recognising the importance of the wider factors that impact on our health and seeking to address them. The integration and planning has stood up well in the Covid storm that hit us all, and has led to services being more efficient, streamlined and focused on where the need is.

As we have all striven to work together, we have come to recognise the commonality of our ethos, resources and challenges; a collective approach provides so much more than individual organisations working in isolation. Together we are better.

I have observed how The GP Federation (our local co-operative of GP Practices) has developed in to a mature and successful organisation, and together with our GP Primary Care Networks and their enthusiastic, hardworking and talented Clinical Directors and staff, we have delivered an amazing vaccination programme to local people.

Our neighbourhood services and integrated health and care teams have mobilised and delivered vital aid to vulnerable people, key elements of our local health care provision.

BARDOC has always stepped into the breach when we needed a rapid response and the Covid Management Service provided a really important safety net early on in the pandemic.

Urgent care has been transformed, and the ‘system’ now sees urgent care as ‘everyone’s responsibility’. And, thanks to new technology, our incredibly popular online webinars have produced a new cohort of ‘film stars’.

I am incredibly proud of the people who work across our health and care system in Bury. Daily I come across people from all areas of health and social care and beyond who give of themselves to support our wonderful town, often going beyond what is asked for, or could even be expected of them.

The outpouring of love and support during the sad days at Garden City Medical Centre and within our teams and services that have lost loved ones and friends, and the response of Practices to provide beleaguered nursing and residential homes with vital PPE to enable them to provide care safely at the beginning of the pandemic are only two examples and still bring a tear to my eye. I am so incredibly thankful to all the people that have supported me whilst in the role.

Much of the focus over the last 18 months has been on providing emergency care, and ensuring the health and social care service was providing safe and adequate services. This was the priority. As we move on to a less frenetic pace and focus on ‘building back better’, I think it’s really important we focus on the health and welfare of our workforce. Our workforce, like many providing front line services, has been batted by the challenges of providing good care during the pandemic, changing fundamental approaches to care in a safe way and focusing on where the care was most needed. Let’s not forget that our workforce are also mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and friends. They have had to cope with the pandemic at home too, and for many of us, this has been really hard.

Whilst there was a massive outpouring of public sympathy and support for the health service during the pandemic, many of us have noticed the increasing patient demand, and frustration with a health service now burdened with waiting lists and reduced resources.

A healthy, enthusiastic and motivated workforce is fundamental to providing good care, we are already seeing workforce shifts, significant gaps in recruitment and this is affecting our ability to deliver services. The Council, CCG and our NHS providers all have workforce support programmes in place. Uptake could be better though, and perhaps we need a bigger and more open debate about the stress of working in a service that is stressed.

We need to connect better, online meetings are a useful method for imparting information, but cannot replace physical meetings and the time taken to build relationships. We should look to a more proactive and supportive approach to support our workforce and demonstrate why Bury is truly the best place to work.  ‘Look after the people, so they can look after the people.’

Thank you for being kind.

Dr. Jeff Schryer