A team of leading experts in the field of health, social care and public finance has been appointed to look at how the North East can tackle health inequality.
The five national figures will form the Commission for Health and Social Care Integration in the North East, which has been set up by the NHS and the North East Combined Authority (neca).
The purpose of the commission is to identify opportunities for further collaboration and integration in order to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and reduce health inequalities across the North East.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, has already been appointed as chair of the commission, which met for the first time last week.
Mr Selbie is joined by Tom Wright, chief executive of Age UK; Professor Dame Carol Black, expert advisor to Public Health England and NHS England on health, work and wellbeing; Rob Whitemen, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy; and Dr Amit Bhargava, clinical chief officer for NHS Crawley Clinical Commissioning Group and executive board member of the NHS Alliance.
Cllr Mick Henry, health and social care lead for the North East Combined Authority, said: “We want to improve the economic fortunes of the North East, with more and better jobs and greater opportunities for business to develop and thrive.
“By tackling health inequalities, we can ensure that residents across the region are able to share in the benefits that this can bring.
“The commission brings together a wide range of expertise, which will enable us to understand how we can build on our existing strengths in order to achieve this.”
At their first meeting, the commission members discussed the purpose and focus of their work and agreed how they will carry out their work in partnership with local organisations.
Over the next few months, the commission members will be exploring how to build on existing arrangements for joint working, to place greater emphasis on prevention and support the shift from hospital-based care to self-care and care closer to home, to improve health and independence.
They will also be looking at what financial arrangements would be needed to underpin these shifts, as well as how decisions would be made within the neca area and with central Government.
As their work progresses, they will be linking into the broader neca agenda, which includes the wider social and economic issues that impact on health.
Mr Selbie said: “We know that the North East has some of the best health and care services in the country and that there is already a great deal of effective partnership working taking place.
“Despite this there are still clear health inequalities which we must tackle to improve the lives of residents so that that they can be as healthy as possible and play an active part in their community and the wider economy.
“This means organisations working together to identify a number of significant practical developments that they can implement together to support a system that is sustainable, affordable and makes the most of the resources, skills and talents that exist in the region.”
Dr David Hambleton, chair of the Northern Clinical Commissioning Group Forum representing NHS clinical commissioning groups, said: “We welcome this opportunity to work with the commission looking at how organisations can collectively help to improve the health and wealth of the region.
“We face some very significant challenges to ensure that people have the same chances of happy, health and prosperous lives, no matter where they live. We believe this is best achieved by the NHS and local authorities working closely together and the commission will help us to understand better how we can make this happen.”
The commission will shortly begin a call for evidence to seek views and information from local people and organisations in relation to how services can work better together. There will also be listening events in each of the seven local authority areas to provide further opportunities for participation.
The commission will meet again to consider the findings in early summer.