HEALTH and social care staff are working closer together than ever before. Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN looks into the latest development in the new partnership and what it means for people using these services.

SOCIAL workers, district nurses and mental health specialists will work closer together in neighbourhood teams as authorities in Bolton formally agree to create a new “alliance”.

Staff from Bolton Council, Bolton clinical commissioning group (CCG) and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust (FT) will work together alongside the voluntary sector and mental health services.

It is hoped that the move will stop people having to repeat the same information to different organisations and allow staff to provide better care, reduce overlaps and duplication in work.

Health and social care professionals have already been working closely with the aim of offering coordinated care for residents, closer to their homes and tailored to their needs and those of their community.

But now, plans for teams to work even closer together and make the best use of available resources have been approved by the partner organisations involved.

Bolton NHS FT chief executive Jackie Bene said: “This is the next step in improving the delivery of health and social care services in ways that makes better sense to people. In neighbourhoods where people live, in partnership with communities to make better use of their strengths and abilities to help themselves – which can often be overlooked – and with more simple access routes to care.”

Chairman of NHS Bolton CCG, Dr Wirin Bhatiani, said: “Since we embarked on this partnership agreement back in 2018, we have all been working hard behind the scenes to make our intentions of a more integrated health and care system for Bolton a reality.

“I am pleased to say that we have made great progress and are now ready to move forward by formalising some of these arrangements. These steps will provide staff with clearer direction and focus and, in turn, will have a positive effect on the public. By working in this way, together we’ll be able to deliver better care; that is closer to home and  that matters to people and their families.”

Bolton Council and Bolton CCG will form an integrated team, working to a single commissioning plan for health and care services in the borough.

The integrated team will be led by a director of strategic commissioning, funded by existing resources from within the Bolton health and care system.

In addition, the integrated care partnership is moving forward by becoming a provider alliance to enable staff from different organisations to work better together while remaining with their current employers under the same conditions.

A neighbourhood-based model of care – which will include housing partners and the police – is being developed to help people gain access to the services they need in a more structured way.

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The new alliance will allow staff to be led by an overall managing director but remain part of their current organisation.

Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for adult services, Cllr Andy Morgan, said:  “As a council we want Bolton residents of all ages to live healthier, fulfilling lives and to feel fully supported by our health and social care services.

“We know that there are differences across our borough so by working closer than ever with our partners we can address any inequalities and ensure services are delivered closer to where people live. These latest developments represent a big step forward towards achieving this goal.”

Labour group leader at Bolton Council, Cllr Linda Thomas, said she supports the move to work closer together.

The Bolton Health and Social Care Partnership, made up of the organisations within the town responsible for providing health and care to its residents, was formed in 2018 under Labour’s leadership.

Now in opposition, Cllr Sue Haworth, Labour’s shadow cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said the move is a “prime opportunity” to tackle health inequalities in Bolton.

She said: “For adults with long-term health conditions increasing the support for adults and children who are their carers would be a really good move in the new commissioning.

“I’ve met many people in Bolton for who support groups and recreation are a lifeline so making the community sector available to more people here will work.

“Computer and smartphone health interaction is increasing but we need to ensure those who have some of the poorest health do not get left behind on this.”

She added: “Some areas have fewer volunteers and less community activity where, for example, people have tiring physical jobs and can be working more than one job to make ends meet. The provider alliance leaders can be mindful to ensure that those areas do not lose out at all in these new plans. A cash injection for the NHS in Bolton to back these new plans is much needed.”