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Healthcare plan for region was 'over optimistic' as £96m deficit is revealed

Patricia Hewitt, former health minister, and head of Norfolk and Waveney's healthcare overhaul. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Patricia Hewitt, former health minister, and head of Norfolk and Waveney's healthcare overhaul. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Health bosses have admitted a plan to overhaul services published in 2016 was "over optimistic" as it was revealed the budget for Norfolk and Waveney was £96m behind where it should be.

The Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) for Norfolk and Waveney was launched in 2016 - at the time the aim was to save £300m by 2021, and by 2018/19 the system was meant to be £4.7m surplus.

But Patricia Hewitt, former health secretary and independent chair of the STP, said: “It’s very clear that early plan was over optimistic.

“People were just adding up lots of different numbers from lots of different fragmented bits of the NHS.

“Because we’ve now got a much better understanding of what is driving the problem, we’ve got a much better chance of putting in place integrated plans including a financial recovery plan that will deliver in better outcomes and better quality of care for the people of Norfolk and Waveney.”

The £96m overspend is after £78m of savings were made across Norfolk and Waveney providers in 2018/19, and Mrs Hewitt put it down to demand increasing even more than experts predicted three years ago.

The STP paid consultancy firm Boston Consulting £500,000 to look into where there were issues and how to bring down the deficit.

And although that work had finished a new plan was not expected until around September.

She said: “What we now know from this very detailed work with Boston Consulting is actually as we change the whole system and as each of our three acute hospitals becomes as efficient and effective as they can, but they also work more closely together, we actually can make the whole system sustainable.”

However, Mrs Hewitt said more beds would be needed in the county’s hospitals to cope with growing demand.

She said: “We will need some more acute hospital beds in a couple of years time, but that’s not the main problem, we’ve got a much stronger plan.

“But we also have three trusts in special measures and a lot of change going on in the system.”

Mrs Hewitt also revealed new plans for 20 primary care networks in Norfolk areas.

There is already one up and running in Norwich, the OneNorwich partnership, where GP practices work together.

But this was set to be expanded to include things such as mental health support, social workers, and voluntary groups, to provide more support.

The aim is for GP practices within each network to work in partnership with each other and other professionals in community and social care to deliver care that is more joined up and delivered closer to home.

Mrs Hewitt said: “It’s just a way of making sure we build our community services around primary care to enable far more people to get the care they need close to home and in their own home.

“We have to keep people out of hospital wherever we possibly can and we need early intervention for those with mental ill health.

“It’s much better to intervene and give people the right support early.”

It is hoped the networks will pave the way for the STP to become an integrated care system (ICS).

The partners previously applied to become an ICS but their application was rejected.

However under the NHS’ long term plan all areas will eventually become an ICS.

Mrs Hewitt said the reason the STP missed out on becoming an ICS last year was due to the financial plan.

She said: “It did not go wrong, we just were not ready, we needed a much stronger financial plan and a much stronger understanding of why we’re in deficit.”

But she said there were lots of successes which meant Norfolk and Waveney was now ready for the change.

She said: “One of the biggest achievements of our STP cannot be measured by numbers and spreadsheets.

“We have brought health, social care and public health partners in Norfolk and Waveney together in a way which was not in place before.

“We are building closer bonds and confidence in each other which will help us in our ultimate vision to become an ICS.”

She said millions of pounds had also been attracted to the area because of partnership working, including £1.3m for cancer services, £2.1m for winter reliance schemes, and £585,000 for the central Norfolk wellbeing hub.

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