As we see renewal and new life all around with Summer just around the corner, there also comes a time to look to the future.
Despite the many challenges the pandemic has presented, at South West London and St George's (SWLSTG) our teams have continued working on plans to improve our services in the coming years.
In April, our community came together online to hear about the development of modern mental health facilities in Wandsworth, Richmond and Kingston, and we shared more on our plans to improve our services.
If there’s anything we have learnt from the past year, it’s that standing still is not an option. The world around us has changed dramatically and we know that in order to continue to deliver high quality care, our services need to develop.
In this context, the principles of the NHS Long Term Plan – the vision for the future of the NHS – are still as relevant as ever; boosting ‘out of hospital’ care, breaking down barriers between services, delivering personalised, digitally-enabled care and giving people greater control over their own health.
We were delighted to receive news last month that we had secured £2.8m in funding to help transform our adult community mental health services in line with this vision.
This investment marks the beginning of an exciting process of working hand in hand with our communities to improve our services. As we set out do this, we know that we don’t have all the answers. And that’s why, over the next 18 months, we will be bringing stakeholders across South West London together to design new models of care that take local needs into account.
As a leading provider of mental health services, we are at our best when we are responsive to the needs of our communities. This means giving everyone a voice, listening to what really matters to the people we serve, and co-designing care in a way that works for our service users.
Through this work we want to build bridges between services and community provision to help deliver a better experience for patients. We want to address inequalities that exist in our healthcare systems. And we want to reduce waiting times, strengthen transitions between different services and remove barriers between different stages of care.
Underpinning all of this will be a strengthened workforce. This funding will see the launch of a recruitment programme to build out teams across our boroughs, delivering new roles including Nursing Associates, Peer Support Workers and Community Support Workers. Larger and more innovative multi-disciplinary teams will then work hand-in-hand with our partners, patients and carers, to develop new treatment pathways for people in our local communities.
As an anchor in our communities, we aspire to add value beyond the services we provide, including in areas like employment. Supporting our local economy has never been more important, and as one of the largest employers in South West London we are excited to be investing in roles at all levels through this programme. (You can find more information about how to apply to work at SWLSTG here).
For those accessing our services, the new pathways and models of care will help to deliver an NHS that is easier to navigate, that offers flexibility and choice and that works in tandem with other local support. At the end of this road is a system that delivers improved health and wellbeing for people across Sutton.
Whilst services will always have a vital role to play, looking beyond to the many things that support our mental health is also really important. To this end, NHS Trusts, Commissioners, Local Authorities and community groups across South London are developing a ground-breaking programme to support the prevention of mental ill health. Community leaders made a series of pledges at a recent community summit to help tackle mental health challenges and support our local pandemic recovery.
Following a listening campaign that has heard from over 5,000 people, this programme will soon bring forward an action plan to tackle key mental health challenges. These include social isolation, low mental health awareness, the digital divide and unemployment - all of which can impact our communities’ health and wellbeing in different way.
As a Trust, our ambition is always to be a centre of excellence, providing safe and effective care; a place service users recommend, where clinicians want to train and where our communities want to work with us. Everything we do is about giving concrete expression to this vision and creating a mentally healthier future for people in South West London.
We don't underestimate the challenges that remain and the long-term mental health impacts of this pandemic, but we look ahead with renewed optimism and resilience in our Trust mission to make life better together.