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Continue journey of change, by John Compton


As the Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board John Compton is set to retire, he explains why the future of health and social care matters more now than ever.

I will be retiring after a 40 year career in health and social care. I do so with an immense sense of pride in all of the staff who really do make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis, despite the many challenges they face.

Very often health and social care hits the headlines for the wrong reasons. With over 100,000 people using health and social care services every day, we won’t always get it right, and when we don’t, we have a duty to learn from any mistakes.

Each day around £10m is spent on health and social care in Northern Ireland and for the 2% that occasionally goes wrong, 98% goes well. Frequently, I hear many stories from patients who have had a very positive, caring experience. It is really important that this is also recognised and that the public has confidence in health and social care services.

Changes being made under Transforming Your Care are continuing to have a major impact on people’s lives. We have much to be proud of.

Patients having a heart attack are now taken to a catheterisation laboratory in Belfast that is capable of undertaking the procedure 24 hours, 7 days a week. This is transforming outcomes for many patients and will be expanded into the West later this year.

In Northern Ireland we have the most successful live donor transplant service in the UK, with over 50 live transplants in each of the last three years.

The establishment of Integrated Care Partnerships are focussing on new ways of professionals from primary care, hospital, social care, and the community and voluntary sectors working together to improve outcomes for patients with diabetes, respiratory problems, stroke patients and the frail elderly.

More children are being fostered, and more older people are also being supported to live at home.

Recent surveys have shown that there are high levels of satisfaction with the quality of care provided in hospitals, by GPs and by community pharmacies.

Whilst that is to be welcomed, we know that with an ageing population, increasing demands, and decreasing budgets, change isn’t just an option –it is an absolute necessity. The whole system will not be sustainable in the future if we don’t continue to make the changes. We will continue to experience pressures throughout all services – many of which emanate at the front door of Emergency Departments, even though the root causes often lie elsewhere.

I had the privilege to chair the team that produced the Transforming Your Care report which set out the major changes which are needed.

To continue to deliver this will require leadership, political courage, adequate resources and public support.

There also needs to be a wider debate about what the public need and expect from their national health and social care service.

If there is one thing I have learnt over 40 years is that people make up the health and social care system, whether they provide or receive the care. It is their integrity that fuels my optimism for the future.

John Compton