Prof Mike Thorne CBE named as chair designate of planned NHS board for our area

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The local NHS took a step towards its expected future this week with the appointment of Professor Mike Thorne CBE as the chair designate of the structure likely to oversee it.

The Health Bill currently going through Parliament will create a statutory Integrated Care Board (ICB) for mid and south Essex if it becomes law. It has recently passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons, showing its enactment is likely, so the NHS has an obligation to prepare.

Appointing a chair designate of the ICB sets the tone for the local health and care system, which the Health Secretary last week confirmed would continue to cover the nine city, district and unitary local authority areas of mid and south Essex.

Prof Thorne was appointed to the role after a robust recruitment and assessment process led by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Anthony McKeever, executive lead for the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, said: “It was good news for all of us in the local NHS and the area we serve that Prof Mike Thorne was confirmed as our chair designate this week.

“Mike already chairs the health and care partnership, so I have worked with him for some time already and know his enthusiasm for improving our residents’ health outcomes is matched by his expertise and insight.”

Prof Thorne said: “I’m delighted that I have the opportunity to continue supporting the NHS in its plans to work more collaboratively across mid and south Essex. This closer cooperation, which we expect to be formalised by a new Health Act, will help deliver more joined-up care to our residents in the most appropriate way.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge challenge for our health and care system. As we move forward, I’m proud of all the NHS, local authority, care home and voluntary workers I have the privilege of continuing to work with as chair designate.”

Prof Thorne is a former Vice-Chancellor at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), has a PhD in mathematics and is also a respected orchestral conductor, experienced bassoonist and Honorary Doctor of Music. He championed research at ARU during his tenure as Vice Chancellor, becoming a CBE for services to education in 2016.

He remains the chair of the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership and will start in the new role of ICB chair from April 2022 if Parliament confirms current plans.

Special community group Facebook event held to discuss GP Access

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Last week, we hosted a special Facebook Live event chaired by Healthwatch Essex on the This Is Your Life community group. The event offered an opportunity to have an open conversation with the community about:

  • A shared understanding of the number of GP appointments taking place every day
  • The type of illness being treated and the role residents can play to help prevent illness
  • The new healthcare professionals that are working alongside GPs to support patients
  • What’s available to help local people get access to health and care advice quickly and easily e.g. the role of community pharmacy, NHS App for repeat prescriptions.

GP patient survey results published

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Results from the latest national GP patient survey published by NHS England last week, show that despite the growing demand on services, patients who responded described their overall experience of their GP practice as good.

The survey asks about patients’ local GP services (including use of online services, awareness and satisfaction with opening times and preferred GPs), experience of making an appointment, the quality of care at their last appointment, overall experience of their GP practice, experience when their GP practice is closed as well as current health circumstances.

Mean averages across mid and south Essex show; overall experience of GP practice - 78%; overall experience of making an appointment - 65%; How easy it is to get through on the phone? - 58%; enough support from local services or organisations to help you to manage your condition? - 71%

Nationally, COVID-19 saw the introduction of “Total Telephone Triage” meaning people had to call in and provide some health information on the reasons for needing care or advice. Whilst this did cause delays in contacting some GP surgeries, this was introduced to protect patients and staff from the risks of infection, delivering phone and video consultations where possible and make sure those with the highest needs were seen quickly as possible by a GP.

Everyone is urged to download NHS App and seek information on practice websites about local vaccination clinics to help free up phone lines and make access to GP practices easier for those most in need.

Primary care lead for mid and south Essex, William Guy, said: “Latest data shows that nearly half a million (469,000) appointments took place across mid and south Essex in April 2021 alone. This is 6 per cent higher than this time last year. Around 60% of these have been face to face.

We recognise the frustration many people are encountering getting through on the telephone. We ask that everyone plays their part and access information or services in other ways where possible i.e. downloading the NHS App to obtain their vaccination status where possible.”

Across mid and south Essex, plans are in place to improve access to services through initiatives such as new roles including physios, paramedics and social prescribers. Over 250 additional professionals have been recruited over the past two years – with plans to recruit another 200 this year and more again in future years.

A Facebook Live event, hosted on the This Is Your Life Facebook page (6:30pm, 15 July), was als9 held with the aim of explaining the pressures facing GP surgeries at present and everyone’s role in helping make sure we can all stay as healthy as possible and get the care we need when we need it. Watch the video below:

Spring 2021 Issue of CCG Insight Out Now!

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We’ve released the latest edition of CCG Insight, a magazine packed full of information on healthcare in Thurrock plus details of the CCG's and our partners' work in the community.


You can find out more about all of these stories and more by viewing the latest issue above, or by downloading it by clicking the link below. We hope you enjoy reading it! Please feel free to share with friends, family members and colleagues.

pdf CCG Insight - Spring 2021 (1.09 MB)

Ford And NHS ‘Vaccine Van’ Delivers COVID-19 Protection To Low-Uptake Communities

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  • Bespoke Ford Transit COVID-19 vaccination vehicle set to bring mobile clinics to communities who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and those who might face barriers to accessing traditional healthcare services.
  • Pilot scheme by Ford, the NHS in Essex and community leaders tackles access barriers where individuals have been or felt unable to attend a clinic.
  • Ethnically diverse communities, those experiencing homelessness, travelling communities, vulnerable patients and unregistered patients among those to be supported by the initiative.
  • Fully kitted out vehicle is designed to bespoke NHS specifications for safe transportation and administration of the vaccine.

The NHS in Essex has teamed up with Ford and local community health leaders to roll out a vital initiative across Mid and South Essex, delivering COVID-19 vaccines to communities who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and those who might face barriers to accessing traditional healthcare services.

Despite the UK’s successful vaccine rollout, COVID-19 vaccine uptake is lower among some communities facing access challenges. Such communities include those experiencing homelessness, ethnically diverse communities, travelling communities and unregistered patients.

To help address this, a specially converted Ford Transit van will begin to travel across Essex from next month, as GP practices work together with local community leaders to safely deliver and administer vaccines in areas of low uptake.

The Ford Transit will be a hub for dedicated vaccine clinics in the grounds of churches, mosques and other community venues. The NHS and partners across the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership will liaise with community leaders and groups to fill pre-booked appointments to rally and vaccinate as many people from the local communities as possible.

Take-up of the vaccine has been exceptionally strong; 19 out of 20 people aged 50 and over have already chosen to take up the offer, which remains available. Additionally, the number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds coming forward has more than tripled over the last two months. The vaccine van initiative aims to help continue NHS efforts to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to as many people as possible.

The bespoke vehicle is based on a Ford Transit, the UK’s most popular commercial vehicle for 56 years, and has been converted by West Yorkshire-based specialist vehicle builders, Venari Group. The Transit’s specification includes medical grade refrigeration with WIFI monitoring capability, vaccine transport coolers, a collapsible chair for administering vaccines as well as an integrated tablet for accessing and updating health and vaccination records.

Mandy Dean, Director of Commercial Vehicles at Ford of Britain said: “Over the coming weeks, this Ford Transit will make some incredibly important journeys as a vaccination van. Working with the NHS and community leaders to deliver this brilliant scheme and bolster the exemplary vaccine rollout, has been a privilege. Full credit is due to our conversion partners at Venari Group, who continue to work with us to make thousands of life-saving vehicles for the emergency services every year.”

Dr Smitesh Patel, Clinical Director at Benfleet Primary Care Network, Essex commented: “Our goal of giving everyone an equal opportunity to receive this essential vaccine is now in closer reach, owing to the additional support from our valued network of community leaders, Ford and Venari Group.

“This added mobility has meant the gap will be bridged for so many facing a struggle to visit their local vaccination centre. With this support, we enter an important chapter of our vaccine rollout with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.”

Oliver North, CEO at Venari Group said; “The departure of the completed vaccination van from our factory on to British roads is something of a historic moment for us. We have worked closely with Ford and the NHS in Essex to create such an important vehicle, which is set to make a big impact in the community.”

The Ford and NHS Essex Vaccination Transit will take to the roads from early May. The programme will run as a pilot initially, with scope to increase the number of vehicles in the future and explore further outreach models in the future.

For more information, visit the Essex Covid Vaccine website.