THE county “top docs” have a special appointment to keep.

They’re the doctors directly responsible for diagnosing the county’s health care needs and finding the cash to cover them

Together, they’ll be up front when Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) hosts its first AGM from 5-8pm next Tuesday.

CCG Chair, Dr Andy Watts, said: “We’re really hoping as many people as possible turn up to meet us and tell us about their experiences of care in Herefordshire.

“It’s hugely important that we hear from our local population and this is the perfect opportunity for people to come along, hear what it is we’re doing, help us to understand their experience of healthcare in Herefordshire and ensure in the future we offer services that local people need.”

Dr Watts said during the CCG’s first year the organisation had faced a number of challenges, some common across the country, but many specific to Herefordshire and its unique demographic.

“We knew early on that we would have to be innovative to face challenges like an ageing population and increasing numbers of people living with long term conditions and ensure services that met the needs of our population now and in the future,” he said.

Examples of initiatives so far include:

New resources for dementia

The CCG launched a new county-wide strategy to address the issue of the estimated 3,000 people in Herefordshire living with dementia, and research suggesting as many of two thirds of those people have yet to be diagnosed.

“Working with our NHS partners, the local authority and, particularly, organisations from the voluntary and third sector, the Herefordshire Dementia Implementation Plan, puts earlier diagnosis, better post-diagnosis support and a more joined up approach between health and care providers at the heart of our response to the dementia challenge in the county,” said Dr Watts.

Electronic Patient Referrals and the Map of Medicine

The CCG grasped some of the opportunities offered by new and emerging technologies in its first year to transform care for local people.
Piloting the use of an e-consultation service, the CCG gave GPs tools to communicate with hospital consultants to offer a ‘virtual’ opinion of a patients’ symptoms based upon careful descriptions and investigations.

“We used the findings from this pilot to implement an innovative new service alongside Wye Valley NHS Trust which will improve speeds at which GPs can refer patients for hospital appointments where required,” said Dr Watts.

“At the same time, a new web-based tool called the Map of Medicine, which collects all the available information about a particular condition – including clinical guidelines, best practice evidence, referral criteria and service availability – has been used as a tool to agree common pathways of care between GPs and hospital consultants, This is helping clinicians improve care for patients and more efficiently.

“New technologies are vital if we are to make sure we are squeezing as much as possible from the available resources to improve healthcare.”

Urgent Care Review

One of the major challenges facing the CCG when they first took up responsibility for purchasing healthcare for the local population, was improving the county’s network of urgent care services.

Dr Watts said: “We spent several months last year talking to local people about their experience of urgent care in the county, what did and didn’t work, and what needed to improve to achieve better results for patients and better value for money.”

The CCG put on interactive workshops in Hereford, Bromyard, Kington, Leominster, Ledbury and Ross and carried out further activities at Hereford College, primary schools, the County Hospital A&E and online, and used detailed information from more than 500 patients to plan a future that would shift the emphasis of how urgent care was delivered locally.

“The people of the county told us a number of things that have formed an integral part of our plans for the future, plans which we hope will bring significant improvements in quality and value for money.”

“The level of engagement from local people that we have received to date has been humbling and we want to move forward as an organisation by embracing that and ensuring we make decisions that put our patients and our population at the heart of everything we do,” said Dr Watts.