The plight of community health services

Holby City. Casualty. ER. House. 

Have you noticed how most TV medical dramas take place in hospitals? I guess that’s because it is seen as more dramatic. Maybe it’s easier to fit a hospital storyline in to an hour’s TV.

GPs and district nurses also have a look-in of course. Older readers may remember Dr Finlay’s Casebook, and we now have Call the Midwife, and Doc Martin too – but that’s more of a comedy.

Yet there is one area of our NHS that never gets TV acclaim. I am talking about community health services.

It is the unsung and unseen and unglamorous part of the health service but one that is equally vital; mental health services; alcohol and drug addiction clinics; health support for the homeless; and support for people with learning disabilities. 

Because these are unglamorous and often out of sight, they are sometimes the first to be cut in times like today when NHS funding is under threat. Yet slashing these services simply passes them on to other agencies to deal with so no money is actually saved.

In Chester most of these services are delivered by our local community health trust, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership trust, or CWP. They do a smashing job, but because they work across a large geographical area not even all of their staff are fully aware of everything the organisation does each day.

That’s why they held a Best Practice conference at the Crown Plaza recently, to let each other and all their partner agencies know what services are available. It was an uplifting and inspiring event showcasing people with imaginative ways of supporting the sick, the homeless, people who are carers, or people who have simply been unlucky. 

In recent years some of the mystery and stigma about having mental health problems has been removed from sufferers, and successive governments of all colours have supported this trend, but we are still not where we need to be with this issue. CWP’s work, especially with children with mental health issues, is making a real difference to the lives of sufferers and giving hope where once there would only have been bleak despair.

The ex-serviceman with PTSD. The young girl bullied at school and now suffering anorexia. The man made homeless after marital breakdown. The person genetically predisposed to alcohol addiction. The parents of an autistic son unsure what the future holds as he enters adulthood. There are countless and hugely varied users of community NHS services. None will have a TV drama made about their plight, but they are all out there and they are all equally deserving of NHS support – even if we can’t see them. 

What do you think about community health services and how they are funded?  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.  

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