Date published: 7 February 2022

Joe blog header.jpg

I’ve been known to highlight different aspects of our care in my blog and for this month's blog I’ve decided to shine a spotlight on our community services. I’ve chosen them because not only are they crucial to a lot of the other services we offer, but I’m sure there are many people out there who don’t realise the complexity and breadth of what community services have to offer.

If any of us asked our neighbours and passers by if they could name some of the services we offer in our communities, I’m guessing they’d name our Walk In Centres, the fantastic job our district nurses do and possibly blood testing may sit at the top of their list. Sky News have previously featured our district nurses as an example of how our services made sure that our most vulnerable patients accessed the care they needed during the pandemic.

Community services play a key role in helping people stay well, treating and managing acute illness and long-term conditions, and supporting people to live independently in their own homes where possible. Many of these services operate 365 days a year and provide around the clock treatment and care. Did you know we deliver more than 100 community services across our footprint?

We are a complex organisation but our offer to our communities is remarkable.  We prescribe and provide equipment such as wheelchairs and hoists, dental services, a range of therapies and specialist nursing teams, school nurses, health visitors, district nurses, matrons, and community mental health teams too. Our highly skilled frontline teams are well supported by administration staff helping to free up time for clinicians to do what they do best, provide high quality care.

Community collage 07-02-22.jpg

Put simply, our services reach people from cradle to grave and throughout the lifespan. We offer a complete package ranging from helping a mother or family during pregnancy, to being there in the last hours and providing supportive end of life care. We provide so much more than just healthcare and make a huge difference to the lives of many, showing compassion, dignity and respect. Just try thinking about those who may live alone and their only conversation they may have that day is with their district nurse or therapist and the benefits that brings to their overall quality of life and wellbeing.

In some ways community healthcare is the unsung hero of the NHS. Many people who are treated for a physical condition may also access our mental health community services, too. Having those services joined up provides a real opportunity to focus on the patient’s individual needs and our relationship with them rather than the pathway or their condition.

Community services sit between general practice, social care, mental health and acute hospitals and I regard them as the glue within the health system.  For all the outstanding, lifesaving work we see in our hospitals, if we moved our community services into one, you’d just end up with a much bigger hospital and may not get the deeper and richer healthcare, relationships and understanding that community services can provide.

Just looking at the figures from the last year (see below) gives you an idea of how much value community services provide to the local health and care system. Patients and service users we see in the community are often very complex and vulnerable and we manage clinical risk in a very professional way. We always try to think of innovative ways to treat our patients, managing their respective conditions and listening to their feedback.


We also adapt to our population’s needs and a great example of that is our Long Covid Service. Those who have used it talk about the relief there is a service that helps them through a debilitating virus. We’re also moving with the times with our Telehealth service, enabling patients to be remotely monitored at home, and using other digital technology to help us improve our offer and expand our services.

I know for some of our communities the advance of digital health technology will be a challenge. Change is not always easy, but just think about how our shopping habits have changed over the last few years from cash to all the different ways you can pay digitally and how we can access all our banking needs without queuing at a bank.

For me, though, community healthcare really does demonstrate partnership working at its best. Whether it’s community physical health or mental health or primary care services, we’re all trying to work seamlessly with our patients at the heart of what we do. The only way we’re ever truly going to serve our population is to work as one team, with joined up approaches and improve the coordination of treatment and care.  This will help make sure our communities have their health and wellbeing needs met by the right person, at the right time in the right place and more often that not, community healthcare is right at the heart of that.

We’ve excelled during the pandemic, helping other organisations and Trusts with mutual aid to help keep hospitals free for those who need emergency care most. Building relationships with our communities and between health and care providers remains crucial to help improve and shape our services now and in the future.

Thanks for all staff across the health and care system for your hard work and dedication

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive