From the medical model of health to the social model of health, the NHS has gone through a significant change in the last few years
After struggling with COVID, Hemant Patel is back to good health, and now he is on a mission to reduce “health inequalities”.
Speaking at the SIGMA Conference 2023, he spoke about his new role as Clinical Lead, Health Inequalities and Population Health Management, SE Essex Alliance, Essex ICB.
“So, my new role is outside pharmacy, nothing to do with pharmacy. But it is important, I feel that I share some of my insights about the work that I’m doing that might benefit you,” he said.
Elaborating on the role of integrated care boards (ICBs), he said that they are designed to enhance coordination and collaboration across different healthcare providers and settings.
The representatives from hospitals, community services, retail and social care meet on a monthly basis to “look at where there are issues to be resolved, perhaps what can be done to improve the healthcare services.”
He, however, noted that it is about “long-term planning”, even though the responsibilities have been delegated to the Integrated Community Team (ICT) base, there is not much activity at a local level, and this is something that in his opinion needs to be improvised.
Hemant also spoke about some of the important changes that have taken place in the National Health Service (NHS) in the last few years.
“There used to be a medical model of health where you fell ill, you saw a healthcare professional, and then those prescriptions, and there are efforts made to help you with surgery or prescribing.
“This has changed the social model of health. So, it’s not healthcare, it is health. It is how to add a year to life and life to years,” he said.
He emphasised that community pharmacies need to recognise these changes as serious players in primary care.
Additionally, there is also a shift in government thinking at a local level, from treatment to prevention and Hemant stated that it “is a significant change, and there’s an investment being made to make sure that that happens.”
Further speaking, he highlighted the intentions of the government such as expanding the role of community pharmacies beyond dispensing medicines, shortage of staff, aligning their services with the broader healthcare goals of the NHS, and Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
As Hemant mentioned in his speech, each year the government will transfer one per cent of the NHS budget to the Prevention Agenda.
“That is 1.6 billion pounds each year and over a five-year period, something like eight billion pounds will be transferred. This is additional to the existing public health budget. So, it is three times more than the pharmacy budget.”
“That is a market that is going to have customers. And that’s going to have money. And pharmacy I believe is ready to seize the opportunity,” Hemant added.
At the same time, Hemant is also focused on promoting NHS England’s programme which is “designed to support Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to drive targeted action in health inequalities improvement.”
The initiative aims to “reduce healthcare inequalities at both national and system level” within the most economically disadvantaged per cent of the population, as determined by the National Index of Multiple Deprivation.
Hemant listed five key clinical areas of health inequalities, which are maternity, severe mental illness, chronic respiratory disease, early cancer diagnosis, and hypertension.
Hemant spent 26 years of his four-decade journey in pharmacy as secretary of the North-East London Local Pharmaceutical Committee before resigning in 2021. At age 69, Hemant has literally become a social crusader driving change for social justice. Along with his ICS role, Hemant currently holds the position of vice-chair of the Southend Health and Well-being Board.
As Clinical Lead at SEE ICS, he looks after four key areas which are high-quality care, equity and fairness, patient-centric care, preventative health care and public health.
Hemant is involved in designing and creating health services that enable quality healthcare accessible to underprivileged people such as drug addicts, the homeless, the mentally ill, the unemployed and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Population health management is another important part of his role, and this requires him to collaborate with various stakeholders that are contributing to the wider determinants of health, including primary care, community pharmacies, hospitals, local authorities, and the voluntary sector.
The idea that Hemant and his new colleagues are working on is to design care pathways that provide patients good access to preventative services as well as to ensure that no one is left without effective healthcare.