One of my roles during my time as leader of Thanet District Council (a decade ago now) was to sit on Thanet Health & Wellbeing Board. It was a real pleasure helping to forge links with the (then) newly formed local Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group. Our local clinicians and health professionals clearly had a focus on issues affecting the lives of local people.
Several years later I found myself 'changing hats' and representing Thanet CCG on the same local Health & Wellbeing Board. It felt a little strange I suppose, but by my new role was relating to Thanet patient engagement and I felt there was an element of continuity in that I was still representing local folk, their needs and aspirations.
I like to think I helped get the Wellbeing Board to take the third sector seriously and indeed, towards the end of that period, I was pleased that a third sector representative was appointed to the board.
Then NHS changes presented us with an emerging Kent & Medway Clinical Commissioning Group and further reorganisation turned our board into a partnership. A special meeting was called by the TDC Chief Exec to 'refocus and move things forward' and the revamped Thanet Health & Wellbeing Partnership was underway.
Just for good measure, Covid struck at exactly the same time as these changes came into force and along with everyone else, our meetings went online. Not surprisingly, clinicians and health professionals were extremely busy for a year or two but the partnership 'limped on' and although our clinicians are clearly still extremely busy, a new NHS Kent & Medway - Integrated Care System has recently replaced the CCG.
I retired this month but I was delighted to see on the NHS Kent & Medway website that the Integrated Care System vision and purpose reads 'We will work together to make health and wellbeing better than any partner can do alone'. Music to my ears!
Then a 'little birdy' informs me that the July Thanet Health & Wellbeing Partnership meeting has been cancelled due to 'paucity of business'. Really? The area in Kent & Medway with some of the most appallingly poor health and wellbeing statistics has nothing to discuss? No projects to reduce health inequalities? No initiatives to improve mental health services? No campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles?
At a time when important forums are benefiting from a return to face to face meetings, apathy appears to have infected our forgotten corner of Kent yet again. I do hope our local Thanet Health & Wellbeing Partnership isn't simply a an overlooked casualty of the wider Kent & Medway 'integrated' approach.
Come on folks - we can do better than this!