Health and social care services in Oxfordshire have 'significantly improved' since a scathing review but more work is needed, according to a report by the sector's watchdog published today (Wednesday, January 9).
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found improvements had been made eight months into an 18-month plan agreed by Oxfordshire health and social care organisations after an initial review in November, 2017, criticised them for a 'blame culture'.
Work has been done more closely to plan and deliver health and social care services, particularly for older people, a spokesman for the organisations said, which include the county council, NHS trusts, ambulance service and clinical commissioning group (CCG).
Health and care organisations have also been working together to improve 'patient flow' through the system to reduce ‘delayed transfers of care’, so patients who are physically well enough to leave hospital do so at the appropriate time.
The CQC report states: “We saw some practical examples where the improved cross-system relationships had improved outcomes for people.
"For example, work had been undertaken to successfully reduce the numbers of people who remained in hospital unnecessarily.”
The health and wellbeing board, which is responsible for overall health and care strategy in Oxfordshire, had also been expanded to include district councils and chief executives from the NHS trusts and the CCG.
The follow-up review noted a sense of shared purpose between these organisations, and a willingness to take a system-based approach to resolving challenges and planning for the future.
A spokesman said the health and social care partners in Oxfordshire acknowledge that improvements are still required, including a review of services to support older people, and better use of voluntary groups to support patients so they can go home from hospital.
Support and advice for people who pay for their own care – known as ‘self-funders’ –needs to be developed further, according to the CQC inspectors.
Kate Terroni, director of adult social care for Oxfordshire County Council, said: "The report reflects the improvements in relationships between system leaders, the lessons learnt from last winter and how we’re working better together to support people to leave hospital when they are fit to do so.
“We recognise there is still more work to be done on our offer to self-funders, supporting carers and fully utilising our excellent voluntary sector. I look forward to continuing to work with our partners as we take this work forward.”
Dr Bruno Holthof, chief executive of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said significant progress has been made in helping more patients get home from hospital more quickly.
“We know there is much more to be done but it is heartening that the progress made to date has been acknowledged by the CQC," he added.
Louise Patten, chief executive of Oxfordshire CCG, said: “I am hugely grateful to our staff, stakeholders and public for helping us to achieve so much in such a short time.
“This is, however, work in progress; we continue to develop the different parts of the health and social care system in Oxfordshire to work better together to improve patient care.”
Stuart Bell, chief executive of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, added: “While there is still work to be done, we have developed stronger relationships with partner organisations and this joined-up approach is having a tangible impact on people’s lives.
“Most importantly, all the planning and preparatory work which the CQC recognised in its report has helped our teams across health and social care as they now face their toughest challenge in the heart of winter.”
Penny Thewlis, Chief Executive of Age UK Oxfordshire, said the voluntary and community sector has a pivotal role to play in enabling people to return home safely so welcomed the improvements.
While Will Hancock, chief executive of South Central Ambulance Service, said: “In order to make further improvements in patient care for those in the area we will continue to work in partnership with all colleagues in the health and social care system.”