Wigan inspires call for “new deal” for the NHS

Cllr David Molyneux. Leader of Wigan Council. May 2018.
The chief executive of the UK’s leading health think tank has urged for the NHS to adopt the principles of the Wigan Deal for the next ten years as it approaches its 70th anniversary.

Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of the King’s Fund, has used the approach of Wigan Council and its health partners as inspiration to call for a “new deal” for the NHS.

This new deal would emphasise people’s responsibility to use services appropriately and keep healthy as well as law and policy-makers working more closely with communities.

Through The Deal, which was launched in 2014, Wigan Council changed its relationship with residents to one where the council works together with communities to create a better borough.

The council committed to a series of pledges such as keeping council tax low and building services around residents in return for people playing their part too through activities such as recycling and keeping active.

The council also invested £9m in community groups to address some of the social issues the borough was facing.

These principles have been applied to Wigan Council’s joined up work on health devolution with its health partners in the Healthier Wigan Partnership to improve health standards and reduce demand on services.

Prof Ham, writing in the Health Service Journal, said: “The new deal for the NHS needs to be clear about our responsibilities in keeping healthy.

“Tackling health challenges like overweight and obesity depends crucially on supporting people to take exercise and change their diets.

“Politicians must be willing to work closely with communities in addressing these and other challenges, as well as to act through legislation and regulation.

“The experience of Wigan – where the council has defined its deal with the public through the Healthier Wigan Partnership – shows how this can be done.

“The work of the partnership includes early intervention with children, support for troubled families (which Wigan prefers to refer to as confident families), and initiatives to combat loneliness and provide food to low income families.

“Council leaders in Wigan focus on the assets of their population and collaborate with many other agencies in the public and third sectors to deliver their side of the bargain.”

The King’s Fund is an independent charity that shapes health and social care policy and practice in England.

Prof Ham added: “Recognising that health and wellbeing are everybody’s responsibility should underpin the new 10 year NHS plan.”

Councillor David Molyneux, leader of Wigan Council, said: “To have Chris Ham from The King’s Fund cite the Wigan Deal as an inspiration for a new deal for the NHS is a huge accolade.

“In Wigan borough we have been working with our communities through the Deal for a number of years now and are successfully applying the same principles to health services and settings.

Dr Tim Dalton, chairman of Wigan Borough CCG, said: “Services can only be improved through a closer working relationship and shared goals between the public and the state with empowered communities and reduced demand on services as a result.

“We will be only too happy to support the Department of Health on rolling out a new deal nationally for the NHS as Chris suggests.”