Leicestershire’s health and wellbeing board will be one of the first shadow boards to go live in April, thanks to its successful record of local partnership working, and will build on a year of closer joint working between the county council and the primary care trust.
Its partnership work is highlighted in its work for people with learning disabilities where Leicestershire County Council, NHS Leicestershire and Rutland and partners have improved access to services and support for people with learning disabilities.
People with learning disabilities are at greater risk of having other potentially serious health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Getting health advice and support early is key to stopping serious conditions developing, but this is harder with people with a learning disability because many have a genuine fear of doctors and hospitals, or simply cannot understand the mainstream advice and publicity that is available.
The strategy for learning disabilities is focused on improving outcomes and reducing inequalities, and this is being achieved by:
- a strong partnership across health and social care commissioning
- a partnership board promoting the voice of service users, families, carers and advocates, so that they actively shape the plans and accountability is transparent
- providing a range of easy read materials for health services and engagement
- supporting people with learning disabilities to interview Trust Board members about progress
- engaging GPs to roll out new approaches in primary care to reduce the inequalities people with learning disabilities often experience.
An ‘easy read’ hospital guide has been written with people with learning difficulties that aims to take the fear and confusion out of going to hospital.
A ‘Speaking up for Health’ group has also been set up at which health professionals can hear directly from people with learning disabilities how they should communicate and use appropriate language. It is also the chance for the health professional to give advice and support face-to-face in safe and supportive circumstances.
The work with GPs includes:
- new health checks for people with learning disabilities
- making sure health and wellbeing is regularly monitored and maintained in primary care settings
- improving the take up of routine services such as cervical screening.
Local agencies have also arranged for a woman with a learning disability and her mum to train local GPs in delivering annual health checks to this community. This work has been followed up with an ‘easy read’ health check guide to help an individual understand what the health check is for and what it involves.
There has been a significant increase in the number of people with learning disabilities who have been offered a health check, and in the number of people who have taken up the offer. In due course it will be able to be measured how far this has reduced serious illness and the cost of delivering acute health care across the county.
Leicestershire is aiming to build on this model of partnership in the work of its new health and wellbeing board.
Council leader David Parsons says the health and wellbeing board will challenge traditional ways of working in isolation and bring partners together to drive a new strategy for health and wellbeing across all parts of the care system in Leicestershire.
‘The collective knowledge and expertise we have built up about local health and social care needs is substantial. We are now bringing it all together in a way that will make a big difference for Leicestershire people – we want health care to be more efficient, more effective with better outcomes. That can only happen if local government and health practitioners work together even more closely than we have done before.’