Health forum plan for East Devon and West Dorset

PUBLISHED: 11:59 08 January 2020

The healthcare triangle

The healthcare triangle


Community groups in a triangle of towns and villages in East Devon and West Dorset are planning to establish a joint forum to promote all aspects of health and social care.

Seaton Hospital and (inset) Seaton Health Matters chairman Jack Rowland. Picrtures: Chris CarsonSeaton Hospital and (inset) Seaton Health Matters chairman Jack Rowland. Picrtures: Chris Carson

The initiative will build on the success of community conversations and surveys carried out by Lyme Forward, Seaton Area Health Matters and Axminster Health Needs.

The forum would aim to secure a model of 'place-based care' to best serve communities within a triangle formed by Axminster to the north, Seaton to the south and Lyme Regis to the east - a catchment area of more than 42,000 people.

It would strive to improve procurement and delivery of all aspects of health and social care, including GP surgeries, NHS clinics and hospitals, health hubs, mental health services and care for the elderly.

Alongside the three main towns and Colyton the communities that would be served by the new forum include the villages of All Saints, Axmouth, Beer, Branscombe, Charmouth, Colyford, Combpyne and Rousdon, Dalwood, Hawkchurch, Kilmington, Marshwood, Membury, Musbury, Northleigh, Shute, Southleigh, Stockland and Uplyme.

Axminster councillor Ian Hall.Axminster councillor Ian Hall.

The intention is to ensure that residents within this 'health triangle' are able to access the best possible range of services without being restricted by any of the current 'artificial boundaries' for commissioning health and social care.

Through a cross-community and multi-disciplined approach, the group wants to enable people living in the Axe Valley and across the border with West Dorset to enjoy a two-way flow of information and have unlimited access to the best health and social care, based on practicality rather than postcode.

The members also aim to influence future health and social care decisions by engaging on behalf of their residents with professional health service commissioners and the voluntary sector to reflect the priorities of their communities and ensure that they are taken into account.

The latest move follows a series of informal background talks over the last two years or so, which has included many community conversations and surveys across the area within the triangle.

The healthcare triangleThe healthcare triangle

Representatives from the three groups recently met to discuss their 'vision' with Dorset and Devon NHS chiefs.

They reached agreement in principle to firm up their plans, to launch the forum as a channel for two-way communication and to start working together to deliver their vision.

Jack Rowland, acting chairman of the Axe Valley and Lyme Bay Health Care Forum, said: "We want to give our communities a voice when it comes to the complex and geographically spread nature of health and social care provision in our area.

"We need to be able to influence policy-making so that current and future health care best suits the need of all our residents, regardless of age or postcode."

Axminster councillor Ian Hall said: "Our aim is to act as a central point of reference for patients and service users, elected representatives, the voluntary sector and care providers to help the commissioners of services better understand local needs before formulating future decisions.

"We want to act as a conduit to inform the local population of changes to health and social care service provision to help ease the impact they may have on the local population.

"By working together, we will simply be looking for win/win situations for all stakeholders from residents to our local GPs and the Devon and Dorset health and Social Care Teams.

"We need resilient communities for now and the future in an ever-changing world - we must 'future proof' for local provision so that we do not 'bottleneck' our main hub hospitals. We must also ensure we are reducing our individual and collective carbon footprint in light of the recently announced climate emergency."

NHS social care community services manager for Seaton, Axminster and Seaton (SAS) Richard Anderson added: "We intend to explore the health and social care needs of the wider community to help define, identify and promote best practice. We mean to build on our successful prevention approach and support residents at home. We also aim to identify any economies of scale that this larger place-based population can deliver over town-focused provision."

Axminster community connector Cindy Furse, of Light Up Axminster, said: "Those economies can be reinforced by delivering care closer to the population through making use of suitable local facilities already in existence, to improve the efficiency of services provided by the primary, secondary and voluntary care sector and community services."

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