“Building the healthcare and social care system that everyone would want.”

Over the next few months, we will be profiling members of the new South East London Integrated Care Board (ICB).

George Verghese is Partner Member for Primary Care. Here he tells us about his role and shares his thoughts on the Integrated Care System (ICS).

George VerghesePartner Member for Primary Care
10 Nov 2022
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I feel privileged to be the Partner member for Primary Care for South East London ICB.  My role is to support the viewpoints of ‘on the ground’ primary care in its broadest sense – general practice, dentistry, optometry, and community pharmacy – and bring their views to the discussions around providing health and care to the citizens of south east London. It’s an important role because sometimes the conversation can be focused on ‘the big beasts’ of acute and hospital care.

One of the main ambitions of the ICS is to make sure that we provide holistic care for people.  Although primary care has been doing that for years, this is about involving other sectors in that care, such as local authority and local government.  My role is to support the primary care viewpoint in conversations, connect with other board members, help them understand that viewpoint and vice versa, so we can achieve a more cohesive direction which supports that ambition of holistic care.

Building the healthcare and social care system that everyone would want

For me, the main difference in being part of the ICS is the ambition to realise the sort of health and social care system we think it should be. This ambition has been built in from its inception. It shouldn’t matter which organisation you’re working for, or which sector you’re in, your whole purpose is to serve the citizens and patients as best as you can.  This is how I think most people think the health and social care system should work, and the establishment of the ICS is the first realisation of this. Rather than a disparate set of organisations who are not always aligned, sometimes competing, and often working in silos.

It’s a huge transformation, and it doesn’t mean everything will be fixed overnight. However, we are on the right path – building the healthcare and social care system that everyone would want, with all partners talking to each other.

The most important thing we need to do is enhance communication between the providers and between the providers and the people they serve. To me, this is critical.  I wouldn’t be part of it otherwise.

It’s all of us, working together much more closely and on a larger scale

One example of this new way of working is within my particular borough of Lambeth: the CHILDS scheme, where general practice and the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Evelina Children’s Hospital teams are working very closely together. This clinic accelerates communication, referrals and care of anyone under the age of 16. It’s a model of how we can deliver care more effectively, with the patient completely at the centre, surrounded by the GP, community nurse and a consultant paediatrician.

This example of delivering care in a responsive way, in a community setting, that’s the kind of ambition that we have going forward. It’s not just: go and see your GP, get a referral, go to the specialist, who then refers you to the community nurse and then eventually you go back to your GP. It’s all of us, working together much more closely and on a larger scale.

Every contact counts

I hate malalignment, and by this I mean people going about delivering care but in slightly different ways, or duplication of services. But with the new system, there’s a real opportunity to be aware of what everyone’s doing.  Also, there will be greater accountability at each step of the pathway – so you may go and see your counsellor about housing, but they may also signpost you to stop smoking services. The ‘every contact counts’ aspects of care.

I also really want to see improved data flow, which means people no longer having to retell their story dozens of times to different agencies. I’m a GP so of course I also see social determinants of health being the biggest factor we need to address in every part of the system.

I know what success looks like

Although I’m coming with a GP viewpoint, I hope, being part of a unitary board, that my ambitions are not widely different from everyone else’s.  We are there collectively to look at our population’s health and to deliver better outcomes in terms of the kind of variation we see in health and social care. I know what success looks like, it’s just going to be a lot of work to get there.