The Birmingham Economic Review 2018: Healthcare Infrastructure

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This blog post has been produced to provide insight into the findings of the Birmingham Economic Review.

The Birmingham Economic Review 2018 is produced by City-REDI, University of Birmingham and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, with contributions from the West Midlands Growth Company. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and is a high-quality resource for organisations seeking to understand Birmingham to inform research, policy or investment decisions.

This post is featured in the full report and report summary here.

The link between the economy and healthcare may not be obvious to all but for our Trust, it is essential that we keep in mind the very many factors that affect people’s health. As the NHS celebrates its first 70 years, it is well recognised that our NHS needs to change from one that just treats illnesses to be one that recognises the value of investment in jobs, housing, social networks and a strong economy to improve people’s overall health and wellbeing. The developing integrated care system in Sandwell and Western Birmingham has done some excellent work looking at the determinants of health outcomes and it is this that we will focus on in the months and years ahead.

Our much needed, and sadly, much delayed Midland Metropolitan Hospital was always intended to deliver more than a state of the art acute health care facility. We now have confirmation that work will restart on the hospital before the end of 2018 and it is that work that has been so vital in attracting regeneration potential to this part of the Birmingham area. New housing developments are emerging in the hospital’s surrounding area, hundreds of apprentices have already worked on the build of the hospital and will do so as a new construction partner is appointed. And, as important as the construction firm’s commitment to local employment and training, is the supply chain of traders and suppliers all delivering services and goods to the development. The commitment of 80% of the spend with those suppliers being from the region is one that we will ensure remains with the new construction partners.

The Midland Metropolitan Hospital – work was paused after the collapse of Carillion

Of course, health care services across Birmingham and the region offer relatively stable employment for tens of thousands of local people and at our Trust we continue to invest in training of our employees to make sure their skills are those that are needed for the health care we offer today and the services we need to deliver tomorrow. Our ring-fenced training budget of over £1m is helping to deliver that, as is our commitment to redeployment for people whose job roles have changed or, in a few cases, disappeared with the introduction of new technology. We have also signed up to the Living Wage so many of our lowest paid workers have seen real pay increases over the past two years.

Recognising the diversity of our city and surrounding communities, it has been a privilege to be part of the ground-breaking USE-IT! programme that is supporting professionals from overseas in getting their qualifications recognised in the UK and helping them into work. As a Trust, we continue to benefit from highly skilled doctors, nurses, therapists and others who are able to put their extensive training to good use within our local health service.

Investing in young people continues to be a focus for us and our award-winning programme, in conjunction with youth charity St Basils, of hospital owned accommodation and health care apprenticeship opportunities for those at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness, is changing the lives of many. The scheme is entirely benefit-free, so no cost to the state, and comes with a wage, support and career pathway for some of our most vulnerable young people.

We recognise that as one organisation there is only so much we can do on our own in supporting staff and the patients we visit and care for. The far greater gains will come as we develop our partnerships with others. So we are beginning a bold programme of change with our commissioners, primary care colleagues and local authority partners, to truly focus on delivering better outcomes for our population. That may mean cutting some of the money we spend in acute hospital care and instead investing in better mental health, or improved housing. It is a challenge that will test us – test our relationships with partners, test our traditional systems and structures, but we are certainly up for the challenge. The prize for hundreds and thousands of local people, receiving genuinely integrated care, is worth fighting for.

This commentary was written by Toby Lewis, Chief Executive, Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust

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