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News and Events archive

Somerset's Sustainability and Transformation Plan (November 2016)

Somerset's NHS organisations and County Council have published the county's STP, a strategic five-year plan. STPs are being produced across the country and aim to create services that work better for local residents, are financially sustainable and have greater emphasis on prevention.

Somerset's plan sets out a way forward for discussion (at this stage it isn't a fully-developed proposal). Over the coming months there will be discussions with the public, patients, carers and professionals to help shape and develop the plans (see below).

View/download a summary here
View/download the full plan here
View/download plans for any of the 44 STPs in England here (interactive map)

Outline engagement and consultation timeline

Comment on the plan
If, having read the plan, you have any comments or queries, use the email address, phone number or Freepost address below. You can also use these contacts to request a paper copy of the plan.


01935 385240 (Monday to Friday. 9.00am to 5.00pm)

Somerset Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP)
Freepost RRKL-XKSC-ACSG (No stamp required)
BA22 8HR

Patient Opinion Somerset (April 2016)
Visit a new live feed and view/leave feedback on the health service in Somerset: Patient Opinion.

Care Opinion Somerset (April 2016)
Visit a new live feed and view/leave feedback on adult social care service in Somerset: Care Opinion

Healthwatch Somerset (April 2016)
You can search all health and social care service providers from here. Try searching by service name, service type, postcode or street name: Healthwatch Somerset

Care Quality Commission (April 2016)
Visit our Care Quality Commission (CQC) page, the independent regulator of health and social care in England: Care Quality Commission.

A Guide to Neurological Services in Somerset (January 2016)
You might also like to view/download a copy of our 'Guide to Neurological Services in Somerset'.

A talk on Post-Polio Syndrome - Monday 10th October, Taunton

The British Polio Fellowhip has organised two talks on Post Polio Syndrome by Dr J Harriss, BSc MSc MD FRCP (Can).   He is the clinical lead at the Frank Cooksey Rehabilitation Unit, King's College Hospital, a senior lecturer in rehabilitation medicine at King's College London and also Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine, St Thomas' Hospital, London, where the Post Polio Clinic, at the Lane Fox Unit is situated.

Download further details here.


'Serious failings' in disability benefits assessment system (31 March 2016)

Disability benefits imageThe system for assessing disability benefits has "serious failings", according to a committee of MPs. Claimants were not receiving an "acceptable level of service" and the cost to the taxpayer of paying private firms to carry out the assessments was set to double to £579 million in 2016-17, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

Committee findings

  • evidence of "arduous journey times"
  • double booked appointments
  • assessments overturned on appeal
  • some assessors "do not understand particular medical conditions"
  • up to one in five reports sampled were "below the required standard"

The Commons spending watchdog said that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its private contractors were making progress to reduce delays and improve the quality of assessments but the regime still fell short of expectations.

"The troubled history of this programme hammers home the importance of getting contracts right - and the importance of then holding contractors properly to account.

In this case, poor performance has had a tangible human impact. We have seen some improvements but there is a long way to go before people being assessed can be confident of getting the service they deserve.

These are serious failings that must be dealt with rigorously. We will expect to see evidence of a more enlightened approach to the needs of claimants, greater transparency over contractor performance and a renewed focus on improving the quality of assessments."

Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier MP

Subsidiaries of Maximus are responsible for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Fit for Work service, while Atos and Capita carry out Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The committee said: "Claimants are still not receiving an acceptable level of service from contractors, with particular concerns for claimants with fluctuating and mental health conditions."

The average time for PIP contractors to return assessments to the DWP was an "acceptable" four weeks, while ESA assessments took 23 weeks on average.

The committee heard concerns from mental health charity Mind, Citizens Advice and the Disability Benefits Consortium about claimants' "poor" experiences.

The MPs also noted that contractors were not required to employ doctors to carry out health and disability assessments, instead relying on practitioners including nurses and occupational therapists.

Only Maximus - with 186 doctors within its workforce of 1,251 - recruits doctors to conduct assessments, the report said.

"As highlighted in this report, we have made good progress to improve health and disability assessments; greatly reducing the backlog and cutting waiting times.

But we know there is more to do and remain committed to working with our providers to ensure claimants get the best possible level of service, and taxpayers the best value for money."

DWP spokesman


Right Chair, Right Time, Right Now

Right Chair, Right Time, Right NowAround 1.2 million people in the UK require wheelchairs to get to work, go to school, buy their groceries, look after their children, contribute to society and achieve their goals. Unfortunately, many are unable to do this because their wheelchair doesn't meet their needs. There is also considerable ariation in access to assessment and in service provision.

The Wheelchair Leadership Alliance is urging supporters of its Right Chair, Right Time, Right Now campaign to respond to a consultation on the Government's mandate to NHS England to 2020. Though now live, the consultation is only open for comment until 23rd November 2015, so time is very tight.



South West Strategical Clinical Network

Can you help? Neurological rehabilitation in the South West Peninsula
All the health, social care and charitable organisations are working together in the Peninsula to improve the provision of neurological rehabilitation.  

The aim of this work:

  • To improve the Neurological Rehabilitation care given to patients, their families and their carers.
  • To make this care truly person focused. Ie actually what they want and not what is available, taking account of patients complex individual needs.
  • To treat people in the place and with the care that is the best for them.

Who is involved?
All Health, Socials Care and charities that provide care and all organisations that commission (pay for) that care.

How is the work progressing?
A steering group has been set up to oversee and lead this work but a most of the work is being carried out at a local level by enthusiasts and individuals within their own organisations outside the meetings.

Your help is needed
To ensure the work truly meets the needs of the person we need as much input as possible from patients, carers and their families. Only by having this will the work be truly person focused.

We will be seeking your help in a number of different ways, so if you are interested in being part of this please contact:

Ruth Hall
0113 8255116 or 07796 994459

South West House
Blackbrook Park Avenue
Taunton, TA1 2PX


New report by the National Audit Office (NAO)
A new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has shown that the government has failed to achieve key objectives for improving services for millions of people with neurological conditions. Reviewing progress against recommendations made by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2012, the NAO’s report shows that progress has been ‘poor’ against two of four agreed recommendations, and only ‘moderate’ in the other two.

Commenting on the report, Arlene Wilkie, Chief Executive of the Neurological Alliance, said: “Three years on from the Public Account Committee’s report, it is unacceptable that so little progress has been made in vital areas that were identified as needing urgent improvement. It only adds to the sense that people living with neurological conditions are not seen as a priority within today’s NHS. We need action so that the needs of millions of people with complex conditions must no longer be overlooked.”

Key recommendations that have not been achieved include:

  1. Access to services
    The government has failed to use levers such as the clinical commissioning group outcomes indicator set to improve access to neurology services across the country and as a result neurology is mentioned in only half of local strategies.
  2. Improving data
    The government has failed to rectify the shortage of neurology data, which means for example that the NHS has no record of the numbers of neurology service users and no effective measure of patient outcomes.
  3. Care planning
    The government has failed to ensure that everyone with a long-term neurological condition has a care plan which means that their changing care needs are simply not being met.

Neurology services continue to suffer from a range of issues including highly variable access to specialist expertise, long waiting times for diagnosis, and poor care planning and coordination, as set out in the Alliance’s Invisible Patients report and the recent acute neurology survey by the Association of British Neurologists. The Neurological Alliance will now write to the PAC calling for a full review of neurology in light of the NAO’s findings.

View/download report here.


The Invisible Patients: a new report from the Neurological Alliance
The Neurological Alliance has launched a new report, The Invisible Patients: Revealing the state of neurology services. Bringing together the findings of the Neurological Alliance's inaugural quality of commissioning audit and neurological patient experience survey, the report identifies significant variation in the quality of the commissioning of neurological services among clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). Findings include:

  • The Invisible PatientsOnly 14.7% of CCGs have assessed local costs relating to the provision of neurology services

    Only 20.4% and 26.2% of CCGs respectively have assessed the number of people using neurological services and the prevalence of neurological conditions within their area

    Only 33% of CCGs obtain vital feedback from patients in regards to the neurological services they commission

  • These issues have a significant impact on patients' care, with 58.1% of patients having experienced problems in accessing the services or treatment they need.

In response, The Invisible Patients sets out a number of recommendations. Find out more on the Neurological Alliance website.



Neurology Matters
On 27th January the alliance welcomed health, social care and allied professionals to a training day at Lyngford House, Taunton, where participants enjoyed presentations by colleagues from neurological organisations working across the county. These are now available to view/download here:

Event feedback
Neurology Matters was highly valued by attendees, as feedback demonstrates. A representative sample is reproduced below. Thank you to everyone who attended and let us know how we got on.

What did you like about the programme?

  • Event feedback‘The variety and the inclusion of the volunteers and their experiences'
  • ‘Use of survivors to tell personal experiences'
  • ‘Some very useful resources on the stands'
  • ‘Stories were compelling – hearing about the highs and lows of services received'
  • ‘Very informative, structured programme'
  • ‘Lots of information leaflets to take away – very helpful'
  • ‘Good to get actual patients to talk through the patient journey'
  • ‘Good presentations'
  • ‘Real life videos'
  • ‘Broad range of neurological conditions covered'
  • ‘Brilliant presentations – Thank you'
  • ‘Making each condition a reality'
  • ‘Good length presentations'
  • ‘Great range of subjects/speakers, particularly enjoyed expert/client mix, although horrified by Ann Marie's story – important reflective material. I really wish her improved care and best wishes.'
  • ‘Pitched at the right level and a nice way of introducing services across the board'.
  • ‘Some of the most interesting speakers were those who were diagnosed with the condition'
  • ‘I am better informed about how to signpost patients to charities/ organisations available'
  • ‘Excellent opportunity to pick up brochures'
  • ‘Best days training for a very long time'
  • ‘Getting a clear breakdown of the various conditions and how it effects family life as well as the diagnosed person'
  • ‘Thank you for the coffee and lunch'

How could programme be improved?

  • ‘Would have liked more info about how Headway help people'
  • ‘Would have been good to do some group work or case studies to allow different professionals to discuss topics'
  • ‘Poor internet'
  • ‘I thought it was excellent just as it is'
  • ‘Shame about video but will watch at home'
  • ‘Cold room, morning session'
  • ‘No facility to buy coffee'
  • ‘Don't provide lunch. Do more tea and coffee and biscuits instead'
  • ‘Names and contact numbers for local groups for each condition rather than national numbers'
  • ‘Better IT'
  • ‘If I had known I couldn't have more than 1 coffee in 7 hours I would have brought a flask.'
  • ‘It was a shame that the IT couldn't reliably support the speakers. However this was no-ones fault'
  • ‘Would have liked an opportunity to meet specialist nurses.'


The River Brue in an artificial channel draining farmland near Glastonbury.

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