Adam Doyle is Chief Executive Officer of the Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups and ICS Leader
Within the much discussed Phase 3 letter outlining the next stage of the NHS response to Covid-19, it is the final sentence that really brings home the significance of the situation that we are currently facing across the Sussex system.
The letter, sent from NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens and Chief Operating Officer Amanda Pritchard at the end of July, outlines the next steps that needed to be taken and ends with the following:
Thank you again for all that you and your teams have been – and are – doing, in what is probably the defining year in the seven-decade history of the NHS.
There have been many defining moments during the 72 years of the NHS but few would argue against the period we are current living through being top of the list. I would argue, however, that this is not just a defining moment for the NHS – this is one that will test our whole system and requires collective leadership, commitment and contribution from all partners.
Over the last two years we have made enormous progress in building a strong foundation of collaboration and partnerships. It is easy to forget, as we now look to strengthen these ways of working as an ICS, that our system was once rated as one of the least developed in the country and has historically been viewed as a system where complexity and challenge hinders progress. We have managed to overcome these hurdles through the strong relationships we have built, founded on respect, trust and a collective commitment to making real positive change for our populations.
These attributes were clearly evident during our initial response to Covid-19 and, although days were long and stress levels were high, it was so impressive and inspiring how all partners collectively rose to the challenge and pulled together.
However, responding to an initial crisis collectively is one thing, working together to face what will be a longer-term challenge of restoration, recovery and future transformation in the new Covid-19 world, will be quite another. We must not let the complexity and challenge get in the way of our progress across our system.
We have developed strong collaboratives across our providers and we are making real strides within our place-based working across health and care. We have also strengthened relationships with stakeholders and are working more collaboratively as a system with Healthwatch and our communities, with a renewed commitment to listening to and involving the populations we serve. It is crucial we now harness these ways of working as we focus on the immediate needs and priorities of the here and now, and look ahead at where we need to get to.
For the short term, the system plan we are submitting to NHS England and Improvement in response to the Phase 3 letter is an important mark in the sand and will provide the basis for how we work for the remainder of the year. This will require a huge effort across our collaboratives and partnerships to restore and recover services, manage winter well and focus on how we can better support our workforce, and improve health inequalities – all within the context of the evolving response to Covid-19.
We have to ensure this does not become all-consuming and we also maintain the right level of focus on the long term. This will require us to have a clear vision of where we want to get to, one that all partners own and get behind, and that allows us to refocus on the commitments of the NHS Long Term Plan and our agreed ICS principles. This vision will be based on work we have been doing over the last few years and is something we will be developing with partners and launching over the next few months to give us a clear view of the destination of our development journey.
We all recognise that the rest of 20/21 will be an unprecedented challenge for our system and will test us all from an organisational, professional and personal point of view. But we should remain confident, from how we have been working and what we have achieved, that we have the leadership, commitment and relationships in place to ensure this “defining year” is one we will be proud of.