The public need to be involved and see more successful projects if they are to buy into sustainability and transformation, says Mike Wedgeworth

We are not experts.

We are not professionals (at least in the health and care field).

We are lay people given a ringside seat at what feels like a tumultuous fight for survival and triumph: sustainability and transformation.

Here the boxing analogy must end, for it’s all done in the nicest possible way, and there’s no blood on the carpet. No doubt in one to one conversations harsh things get said, but you have to look at the faces and the bodies to understand where the tensions lie.

Healthwatch needs to attend – and is usually warmly invited to do so – the full gamut: clinical commissioning groups, hospital trust and health and well-being boards, and new bodies springing up to work on the future plans.

We are there to help fulfil the mantra that “patients are at the heart of all we do”.

It’s not easy.

I will say nothing about the jargon or the acronyms, although I certainly hope that the JCCCGs will not become a burning platform !

We learn a lot, but our first obligation is to try to translate and communicate it all to those who use health and care services, ie the public.

What then are we to say about sustainability and transformation?

The balloon has just gone up on this, with pundits, parliamentarians and even some professionals hitting their keyboards to proclaim that it is all a con; a secret plan to close the hospital down your road. You won’t be able to see a GP for a month. You can forget about more money for the NHS.

It’s a tough ask to add to professionals’ huge workload by urging them not just to talk to themselves, but to find ways of explaining it all to the patient and the public

If there is to be transformation, it will take forever, and the winter pressures, now felt year-round, will soak up all the cash in sustaining hospitals.

It’s all ‘S’ and very little ‘T’.

Offering hope

But the way I see it is that there can’t be S unless there is much more T.

At the local level (and in a county like Lancashire, that means very local) as well as ‘system wide’, the professionals seem to be fully seized of the vision of the Five Year Forward View. It’s a tough ask to add to their huge workload by urging them not just to talk to themselves, but to find ways of explaining it all to the patients and the public.

How much easier this would be if we could offer hope that it’s not about hospitals closing, but enabling them to became healthcare providers, not exclusively in their buildings, but in the neighbourhoods.

That could be the kind of transformation which everyone would welcome. More actual projects need to be in place (and funded… now) to demonstrate to the patient and the public that they really are at the heart of it all.

Mike Wedgeworth is chair of Healthwatch Lancashire.