Former health secretary praises health centre's 'innovation'

Patricia Hewitt (centre) at Gorleston Primary Care Home base at Shrublands Health Centre

Patricia Hewitt (centre) at Gorleston Primary Care Home base at Shrublands Health Centre. - Credit: ECCH

Staff at a social enterprise have been praised by the former secretary of state for health, Patricia Hewitt.

Teams from across East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) were visited by the former health secretary, who hailed the social enterprise's focus on innovation.

Mrs Hewitt visited the social enterprise, which provides community-based NHS and social care in Norfolk and Waveney, as part of her role as chair-designate of the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board.

She asked to visit ECCH to learn about how the community health provider operates as she works on plans to improve the local health service.

After meeting with staff from ECCH’s Primary Care Home (PCH) teams at Shrublands Health Centre in Gorleston, who are central to ECCH’s innovative approach to delivering community healthcare, addressing health inequalities in the area - including the need for closer working with mental health practitioners - was discussed.

Mrs Hewitt also listened to staff’s perspectives on the current challenges facing the healthcare system in light of Covid-19, praising staff for their invaluable hard work throughout the pandemic.

Patricia Hewitt Minsmere Ward

Patricia Hewitt visiting Minsmere Ward with Lisa Ruthven (Unit Manager) and Jeramy Philpott (Nurse Consultant, St Elizabeth Hospice) - Credit: ECCH

Mrs Hewitt - a former minister in Tony Blair’s cabinet - also visited ECCH’s teams at Minsmere Ward on the Beccles health campus and was particularly impressed with the ward’s use of technology to enhance patient care.

Patricia Hewitt viewing new software used by staff for enhanced patient observations

Patricia Hewitt viewing new software used by staff for enhanced patient observations. - Credit: ECCH

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After then meeting with the Waveney PCH team, who are based at the Beccles site, she was impressed to learn of the ‘Virtual Discharge Room’ – an initiative introduced during the pandemic to enable closer working between Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils, the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) and ECCH to facilitate discharges from the JPUH.

Patricia Hewitt discussing Virtual Discharge Room

Patricia Hewitt discussing Virtual Discharge Room - Credit: ECCH

Praising ECCH’s flexibility and willingness to solve problems, she said: “Having an organisation that thinks differently is important within the healthcare system.

"It leads others to consider innovation and ensures things keep moving forwards.”

ECCH’s chief executive Ian Hutchison said: “It was great for our teams to have a chance to chat to Patricia and tell her about the innovations they’ve been working on to improve patient experience and outcomes.

"From the nature of her role within the ICS, Patricia wants to see increased collaboration between health and care providers.

"This was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate how we’re already working closely with our partners, and how integration is producing better results.”