Today is Community Health and Care Day, a new national awareness day that highlights the importance of community care within the NHS. Carolyn Fowler, Director of Nursing and Quality at Norfolk Community Health & Care NHS Trust, explains why this overlooked part of the NHS is especially important in Norfolk
Can you tell us more about Community Health and Care Day?
We launched this new awareness day at the end of 2020, to coincide with the trust’s 10th anniversary. Like all health and care professionals, our colleagues in the community have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, often with little public recognition about what they do. As well as telling the world about community healthcare, we created this new national day to say a sincere and heart-felt thank you to community healthcare professionals, and we hope that other people will join us in thanking them too. Our goal is for the national awareness day to get bigger and better each year, until community healthcare is as well-known as every other NHS service!
What does community care involve, and why is it so important?
Community health and care simply means caring for people in their local community environments. This is usually within their own homes, small community hospitals, their GP surgeries, or in schools. Community health helps people of all ages to live independently. It helps them to recover from injuries or surgery, it helps manage long-term health conditions, and it helps prevent hospitalisations. Our staff also work with patients to prevent ill health and empower them to stay healthy.
We are all much more comfortable in our home environments, so we believe that the community is the best place to provide care. It aids recovery and rehabilitation and allows patients to receive care with their support networks close at hand. As a region with lots of dispersed rural communities and a large aging population, community care is especially important in Norfolk.
What is it like to work in the community?
Community health and care is incredibly varied, depending on the needs of our patients. It takes many different shapes and forms. Our community teams include doctors and nurses, but also physios, dieticians, speech and language therapists, psychologists, and occupational therapists. We also have colleagues who are specialists in wound care, learning disabilities, orthopaedics, diabetes, epilepsy, and palliative care. Community health covers all areas and walks of life, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Our relationship with patients is much more personal, as we often work with patients and their families or carers on a long-term basis. Working in the community is a rewarding and very specialised area of healthcare, and I know how privileged all our staff feel to be able to deliver care to patients in their own homes. Working in the community can be challenging. It is not a controlled environment, so you never know what the situation will be like until you enter. In some cases, patients may be living in inadequate conditions, which can make providing care even more difficult. Our staff need to be confident, resilient, and able to think on their feet.
I am always incredibly proud of the hard work and compassion shown by our staff, but the way they have risen to the challenges of the last 18 months has been incredible.
Community care in numbers:
100 million patients seen in the community in the UK every year
260,000 NHS staff work within the community
15 community trusts within the NHS
1,631 patients seen in their own home in Norfolk every day
NCH&C community teams spend 437 hours driving to patients every day
NCH&C has 2,200 staff providing care to 900,000 people, across over 70 sites in Norfolk
24 patients in residential or care homes in Norfolk seen each day
15% more patients were seen this year than last year – and this increase is set to continue