New approach to community health services in Tower Hamlets

NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has signed an alliance partnership agreement between three local healthcare providers: Tower Hamlets GP Care Group Community Interest Company (CIC), Barts Health NHS Trust, and East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT). 

The partnership will enable local GPs to work much closer with hospital and community trusts to offer patients more joined up health services across the borough and reduce duplication. 

Services within the partnership range from district nurses visiting people at home to speech and language therapists working with children in schools and local health centres, and include a stroke rehab team who support patient rehabilitation in hospital as well as helping people to get well after they have left hospital, and specialist diabetes nurses.

Under the new arrangements, introduced from 1 April, around 350 staff have moved from Barts Health NHS Trust to the GP Care Group and ELFT. 

On day one patients will still receive services from the centres they currently do and contact numbers will remain the same. 

Key developments will include a new single point of access that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, better integration of adult and children services, and a single patient record. 

By adopting the alliance model, the CCG and the three providers are looking to build on the strong working relationships they have developed as part of the Tower Hamlets Together vanguard.  

Simon Hall, Acting Chief Officer of Tower Hamlets CCG, said taking this approach would support true partnership working and integration of care, bringing long-term benefits for local people: “Back in 2014 people in Tower Hamlets told us that community health services needed to improve. 

“They wanted high quality health care close to home when they needed it, but many of the existing services were inconsistent. 

“The new model has been designed to meet the needs of individual patients and benefit the wellbeing of the Tower Hamlets population and the local health system. 

“As local GP practices will be working in close partnership with providers, we will also be able to reduce duplication and deliver effective services that will really make a difference for our patients. 

“I want to thank the Tower Hamlets community for its support. We couldn’t have reached this point without the help of the patient leaders, voluntary organisations and other local groups that were involved in the commissioning process. 

“I’d also like to reassure patients that they will continue to be able to access community services throughout this transition period.” 

The partnership approach will improve children’s and adult services by: 

  • Improving accessibility to provide more people with safe and compassionate care at home or in their local community
  • Transforming community health services in a way that would not be possible in a single organisation. For example, implementing new models of care that support early discharge from hospital – providing person-centred care at the right place, at the right time based on the needs of the local Tower Hamlets population
  • Helping local people to achieve better health outcomes being supported by a truly multi-skilled team. 

Claire Hogg, Director of Community Health Services at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “The alliance partnership is a unique opportunity to transform community health services in Tower Hamlets and put patients at the heart of their care. 

“We are committed to building on our successful track record of partnership working across health and social care, embracing innovation and improving efficiency to ensure we provide the best care to local people.” 

Dr Navina Evans, Chief Executive at ELFT, said: “We look forward to working more closely with our partners to explore innovative ways to provide care and support. 

“We welcome the community teams who joined ELFT on 1 April and look forward to sharing skills and expertise.  

“We will be able to learn from each other and spread best practice to service users and their families.”  

Dr Phillip Bennett-Richards, Chair of Tower Hamlets GP Care Group, said: “We are delighted to be able to use our local knowledge and understanding to develop partnerships that support local patients. 

“We are proud to lead Tower Hamlets Together, a national multispeciality community provider vanguard site that has helped shape and deliver our innovative approach. 

“Collaborative working is extremely important to enable the sustainability of general practice to continue to deliver the highest possible level of patient care in these challenging times.” 

Over the course of over two years, Tower Hamlets Healthwatch and many voluntary organisations worked closely with the CCG. 

They brought together hundreds of people, including patients, independent clinicians and potential providers, to work together to design the services and come up with innovative solutions that best meet the needs of the local community. 

Farzana Khanom, a resident who was involved in the negotiations, said: "I’m pleased and proud to have been part of the patient representative group that played an extensive part in the commissioning process. 

“It was a refreshing and rewarding experience to see all the partners working together and valuing our input. 

“This helped ensure patients' views were listened to and used to shape the new community health services. I’m confident this will result in better care for local people in Tower Hamlets.” 

The new alliance arrangement will also aim to: 

  • Reduce health inequalities – ensuring that people in Tower Hamlets lead more healthy and fulfilling lives through a longer and healthier life expectancy
  • Provide effective signposting of services and pathways – so people understand how and when to access the most appropriate care and avoid unnecessary delays
  •  Promote self-management – ensuring patients are provided with the knowledge and guidance they require to look after themselves where appropriate
  •  Encourage innovation – in the design of services and the use of technology, including implementation of a ‘paperless’ system by April 2018

The value of the five-year deal is £185million.