Leading Think Tank Recommends Wigan Deal as a Model for the NHS

Cllr David Molyneux. Leader of Wigan Council. May 2018.

A leading health think tank is calling on NHS organisations to think more broadly about the role that local authorities can play in health.

The independent report, ‘A citizen-led approach to health and care: Lessons from the Wigan Deal,’ has been published by The King’s Fund today (Wednesday 26th June). The document provides an insight into Wigan Council’s approach to transformation through the Wigan Deal, which the think tank argues could have a major impact if considered more widely than local authorities, looking particularly at national NHS organisations. 

The independent analysis is the culmination of months of work with Wigan Council by report authors, Chris Naylor and Dan Wellings, who state that “Wigan’s journey shows that it is possible to achieve substantial savings, while protecting or improving services”. 

In fact, since 2011, Wigan Council has saved more than £140 million in response to central government funding cuts, representing 40 per cent of its overall budget. Despite this, in that same period healthy life expectancy has increased significantly, bucking the national trend. 

Furthermore, there has been significant improvements to the quality of care homes with a remarkable increase in those rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission, staff engagement has improved, school readiness figures are now in line with the national average and in March 2019 the Local Government Chronicle named Wigan ‘Council of the Year.’ 

The health benefits don’t stop there. The report found that over the past six years, premature mortality from cardiovascular disease and from cancer have both fallen faster in Wigan than in England as a whole. This is in part connected to a significant reduction in smoking rates and high rates of physical activity.

In the report, the authors comment: “The improvements observed are striking in part because they represent a reversal of the trends seen in Wigan before the council and its partners embarked on a different way of working. A decade ago, many health outcomes in Wigan were worsening, and the gap between Wigan and the rest of England in terms of healthy life expectancy was widening.”

In 2011 the council projected a £6.9 million overspend in adult social care, but by 2017/18 it achieved a balanced budget – a very different story to the one being told nationally. 

The authors add: “Wigan’s success in developing a progressive approach to adult social care that appears to have controlled demand growth is one of the most striking elements of the story of The Deal and is a significant achievement in itself.”

Effective leadership, and political leadership is cited as a vital part of the story with report authors commenting: “The approach to leadership that has developed in Wigan is something that the NHS would do well to learn from.” 

The Leader of Wigan Council, Councillor David Molyneux, welcomed the report, commenting:  
“This report has highlighted some key lessons for public sector agencies across the country, while identifying areas for us to focus on in the next few years to fully embed the Wigan Deal, particularly at the citizen – state relationship level. I hope our transformation journey helps to inspire others.”

The report will be discussed at Wigan Council’s annual Deal Conference scheduled to take place this September. To register your interest at this event please contact Lucy Downham on [email protected] 

To read the report visit: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/wigan-deal