For a number of years Tower Hamlets has been on a journey towards integrated, person and community-centred care – from the original integrated care model primarily for over 65s with complex needs leading to attaining Vanguard status; to the decision in 2017 to establish the Alliance Partnership to deliver the Community Health Services (CHS) with greater focus on population health and establishing a lifecourse focus in 2018; and in 2019 to transition from the development stage of the community integration work to delivery at scale focussing on four care models.
All partners have shared how hard this journey has felt, even at the best of times – and in common with systems across England and around the world, never have the challenges for us individually and collectively been greater than in the recent months of the Covid-19 outbreak.
When, after significant discussion and self-reflection, we committed in February 2020 to the next phase of our health and care integration as part of the WEL and NEL ICS developments – with shared priority areas of implementing our Primary Prevention, Complex Care, Urgent and Long Term Conditions Models; transforming our Community Mental Health Services; mobilising our Community Assets; working with our Voluntary and Community Sector partners; and further strengthening our four localities and Primary Care Networks – no-one could have foreseen what the next phase would fully bring.
However, as we look back on those last few months since the beginning of March 2020, when the history of our partnership working currently as Tower Hamlets Together (THT) became the epicentre of our work with local partners on supporting each other in responding to Covid-19 – bringing together, as it has, on a weekly basis senior representatives of the acute, community, mental health, social services, primary care networks, voluntary and community sector, CCG and broader council – we have solidified the foundations of a system that we believe will enable us to drive improvements in health and wellbeing, reductions in inequalities, and the sustainable use of our collective resources to meet current and future demand across these areas and our health and wellbeing priorities as a whole.
This is not to suggest that the next steps will be easy – in many ways, following on from the unprecedented challenges of re-purposing our health and care systems to meet the challenges of Covid-19, the process of continuing to manage safety and risk; capacity and flow; support for both existing and new long-term conditions and care needs; and of accelerating the journey of integration across the partnership; is an even bigger ask of our workforce, our relationships, and all of those who are involved in delivering care in our communities.
As we recognised in February, our four locality Health and Wellbeing Committees covering the eight Primary Care Networks will be critical to the success of this, with primary care at the heart of our borough recovery plan. But it is only by working together as a single team, in support of all of the people of Tower Hamlets, that we will succeed in delivering safe, effective care which harnesses the diverse assets of our organisations and our partnership – enabling all of those we care for to be “Start Well, Live Well, Work and Age Well’’.