4.2. NHS Community Services - The Silent Heroes
Supporting us on each step of our life journey
When most of us think of our NHS, we tend to split our thoughts into two areas: hospitals and General Practice. We go to our GP and then we are referred to a hospital if the problem is complex.
Well, there is a major part of the NHS which lies in-between and is becoming increasing prevalent in our care. These are Community Services. This will be the focus of this week’s topic.
Take a moment and consider how vital our community health services are:
- They support our parents with preparing to bring us into the world.
- They support our health as children.
- They oversee our care throughout our school years.
- If we have a disability, they will be at our side, helping us to develop.
- They work hard to protect the vulnerable.
- If we have an accident, they will support our rehabilitation.
- If we have a long-term (chronic) illness, they will become the core mechanism in allowing us to cope and move forward.
- If we discover that the end is in sight, they will work to ensure that we are comfortable and pass on with dignity.
Of course, it isn’t always perfect at all stages, but just try to imagine life without our community health services. They are often overlooked, under-valued and beaten down.
“Community health services provide support across a range of needs and age groups but are most often used by children, older people, those living with frailty or chronic conditions and people who are near the end of their life. Community services often support people with multiple, complex health needs who depend on many health and social care services to meet those needs. They therefore work closely with other parts of the health and care system, such as GPs, hospitals, pharmacies, and care homes. The increasing numbers of people living with long-term conditions means that more people are likely to need support from community health services in the future.”
(Anna Charles, January 2019, Kings Fund Website, Link to source: CLICK HERE)
Integrated Teams with multiple skills
We learnt a few weeks ago how the NHS Long Term Plan has a key aim of helping people receive more care closer to home. Therefore, Community Services are integral to the success of the Government’s plan.
As an example of the changes let’s look at one disease area – Respiratory. In the past if you had a respiratory disease, you would first see your GP, then be referred to a Hospital Consultant, and then possibly a regular hospital clinic. Over time, these clinics may have changed so that some of the activities are managed by clinics back in your GP surgery – so a combination of GP surgery and Hospital Care.
We are now seeing the growth and implementation of integrated care teams. These are what are called multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) – teams of Health Care Professionals (HCPs) with different skill sets. So, a Respiratory Integrated Care Multi-Disciplinary Team may consist of an Integrated Care Consultant, a Respiratory Specialist Nurse Team, a team of Respiratory Physiotherapists, Respiratory Pharmacists, Respiratory Specialist Occupational Therapists… So, you can see the benefit here, a group of clinicians bridging the gap between hospital and your GP, discussing your care, and working to help keep you healthy at or near home. Here’s an example of one such team based in Surrey:
So, now consider that this approach should be happening for all key disease areas. Teams of skilled clinicians overseeing your care in-between GP and Hospital settings. It feels as if it is what has been missing. Many of us have had the experience of feeling lost once we walk out of the hospital doors, not knowing who to turn to and what to do next.
Our advice is to research what is going on in your local area. If you have a specific illness or ailment, from a leg ulcer to long-term disease, there is probably a community health services team out there wanting to support you. We know that one improvement area for the NHS is its own internal communication (How many referrals go missing? How many appointments get mixed up? Why do you have to explain your medical history to every single clinician you see?), so sometimes we need to gain the knowledge ourselves and then directly ask for help. We feel it is vital to take the initiative with our own health, rather than wait and hope that we are getting the best that there is on offer. Our health is too important to be complacent.
Let’s consider, appreciate, and thank our Community Health Service Teams and individuals. They often quietly go about their vital work, and we need them at every step of our life journey.
To finish, here’s a great, short video of a Multi-Disciplinary Team working together to create some fantastic results:
The video is taken from the NHS England and NHS Improvement YouTube channel, well worth subscribing to if you have a thirst for more health care knowledge.
In future blogs we’ll start to discuss some of our own experiences – the good and the bad – and we’ll also ask for input from you. The very next blog will be focused on the people who work within hospitals – what do all those complicated job titles actually mean?
Founder of Health Control