The end of this month marks a year since the Sussex Health and Care Partnership officially became an Integrated Care System (ICS). It has certainly been a year to remember, with unprecedented challenges that has required the whole system to pull together to respond to the huge impact that COVID-19 has had on health and care, both in the increased and new demands on services and the way we have needed to operate.
In doing so, we have built upon many of the foundations of partnership working we have developed over previous years and accelerated others, which I believe allows us to go into the new financial year with renewed optimism. Reflecting on the last 12 months, all our partners should be proud of the way in which our system has responded to the myriad of challenges we have faced and have continually ensured that the needs of our populations has been front and centre of everything we have done and the decisions we have made.
Earlier this month marked a year since the first lockdown measures were announced nationally and it is extraordinary what has been achieved across the system in response to the management of COVID-19. The partnership working that we have established has played a vital role in ensuring our system could work rapidly to give our populations the care they needed, particularly during the early onset of the pandemic where there was a need for large scale transformation of how we worked. This required unprecedented levels of planning, collaboration, innovative thinking, and hard work across all health and care organisations, within the backdrop of the uncertainty presented by a new virus that no one had experienced before. The learning and ways of working we develop meant we were able to respond quickly and effectively to the increased rates brought on by the new variant as we went into the winter months. This was particular important in our management of system pressures during December and January and it is testament to the hard work and dedication of all partners that our hospitals, community teams, mental health services, social care, care homes and GP practices continued to provide services for those that needed them even in the most challenging periods. This required our system to collectively manage operational pressures and find rapid solutions to resolve issues, in order for us to minimise risks and to provide mutual aid across organisations.
Alongside the challenge of managing winter pressures, we rolled out the vaccination programme during December and January, which required simultaneous mobilisation and delivery of a largest and most significant vaccination exercise in the history of the NHS. This has required an enormous collective effort across our system and the dedication and commitment of those working on the programme to vaccinate our residents as soon as possible has been extraordinary.
As we now go into the new financial year, we are in a very strong position to take forward the learning and successes from the last 12 months and further strengthen our partnership and collaborative working. Our provider collaboratives and place-based partnerships will play a pivotal role in how we continue to manage and develop our system-wide priorities in the months ahead and, from what we have already achieved, we should be confident that we will continue the progress we have made as an ICS.