#GMDevo: City of modern times

Naomi McVey talks Devo Manc, and what it could mean for physiotherapy services

by Naomi McVey

"Certainly Manchester is the most wonderful city of modern times."
Benjamin Disraeli, 1844

Think of Manchester and what do you get? Oasis, Stone Roses, Factory Records and the Hacienda? United or City? Coronation Street? Powerhouse of the industrial revolution?

How about the first region in England to be given new powers over its public services - transport, housing and policing – and full control over its health and social care budget?

A vibrant and expanding region with a rich history and sense of identity; I am proud to live here. This sense of pride is common among many Mancunians, and with it frustration at a London-centric political system that often feels disconnected from life here in the north.

Greater Manchester is also a diverse region, culturally and economically, with a population of 2.7 million across 2 cities and 10 local authorities. A 30-minutes tram journey can take you between areas where life expectancy varies by more than 10 years. In fact life expectancy in some parts of the region is amongst the lowest in the UK. This is just one reason why devolution is so significant:

Local budget, power and decision-making for our communities - by people who live and work here.

But what does this really mean for citizens and healthcare workers - and are the priorities any different to the rest of the country? Well, the budget transferred in April this year so this is happening now. The issues facing AHPs here in Greater Manchester are similar to those across the UK - but the pace of change feels much faster.

In truth I don’t think we know what the day-to-day impact of devolution will be across physiotherapy services, and this creates a degree of uncertainty. I do know we will be asked to think about what we could and should do differently, and how we can redesign services to make sure people in Manchester are getting the best possible care and outcomes. We will be asked to use our knowledge and skills in different ways, and challenged to articulate our unique contribution. This will require us to be brave and visionary, and both the CSP and the North West AHP Network are working hard to inform and support members.

As it stands now I think there are some key themes we need to get on top of quickly:

  1. Information: making sure regular updates on plans for health and social care in Greater Manchester are reaching members across the region.
  2. Population health and prevention – knowing our local population needs, and thinking ambitiously and creatively about what we can do differently to improve health as well as healthcare.
  3. Having a voice – we need to bang the drum about our services, but solution-focused and in the context of local priorities.
  4. Localism – locality plans from each local authority area will drive changes, so it’s important AHPs read and understand these.
  5. Relationships –we need genuine trust, respect and collaboration between professions and teams to develop new ways of working. This means here and now, every one of us.

There are ambitious plans for improving health outcomes in Greater Manchester. The pace of change feels relentless in the NHS and can be enormously challenging, but this is a huge opportunity for us to step up and contribute. Plans are moving fast so we’ll need to do this soon or get left behind.

I know this may seem like a local issue, and obviously to some extent it is, but Greater Manchester is leading the way on this and the likelihood is that other regions will follow – there will be successes, challenges and lessons learned that apply to all regions.

The eyes are on Manchester, and this time it’s not the football. Ignore us at your peril. 

Naomi McVey is programme manager for AHP Workforce with the North West AHP Network. Follow Naomi on twitter @NaomiMcVey

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