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Hello my name is Elaine and I serve as the independent Chair of the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership Board. I’ve made a commitment to doing a regular blog so this is the third one in the series.

At the weekend I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw a photo of a number of our health and care family members receiving their British Empire Medal (BEM) Awards from the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire. Looking at the group of smartly attired, beaming recipients and their supporters, I was struck by the longevity and depth of service to our communities the people represented. Quiet, effective and faithful service carried out over many years. Thank you!

Awards galore seem to have been coming our way over the past few weeks. Two awards have been as part of the wider West Yorkshire Partnership winning the Heath Service Journal’s ‘Integrated Care System of the Year’ for a second year running and the ‘Communications Initiative of the Year’ for the terrific ‘Root out Racism’ campaign. I also want to say well done to colleagues involved in the discharge and flow work across Bradford District and Craven as this multi-agency approach was one of the finalists at the Health Service Journal Awards. I recognise and applaud the work they have been doing that is helping us in our efforts to rise to the challenges posed by system flow so that we can help people get home sooner once they are medically fit to do so.

Others have celebrated the work of individuals and teams who have been creative in developing initiatives to improve care for people. Congratulations and thanks to all partners who have been shortlisted, commended and won accolades for their work aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of the citizens we serve.

Rather less happily on the same Twitter feed was a notice from one of our place’s primary care providers about the levels of abuse their reception staff had been receiving. This abuse has led to the resignation of experienced staff. In another tweet a local GP reported: ‘Having had a week where our receptionists are in tears daily from all the abuse, then reading on Twitter all the hate about nurses and GPs- even from teachers that’s it, think I’m done.’ It’s one of the reasons why we developed a West Yorkshire wide public awareness campaign, called leaving a gap, as this is exactly what’s happening where we are losing colleagues due to the abuse they are facing on a daily basis.

The world of primary care has changed almost beyond recognition. Whilst working on a diabetes research project during 2013/14 I worked with 30 different GP practices across Bradford District and Craven. It gave me an invaluable insight into the changing demands on and expectations of primary care, both from the NHS itself and from Government. Our health needs as a population are behind quite a bit of this change. Not least of these have been the phenomenal rise in people living longer and of people having more than one health condition. This has resulted in GPs having to provide care for greater numbers of patients with complex health needs. Patients who 20 years ago would have been referred to hospital specialists.

Whatever the causes, these changes in primary care have largely remained hidden from public view. This hidden reality coupled with the mixed messaging about GP practices being shut during Covid, has seemingly undermined public confidence in this most critical building block of the NHS. The Government has not helped here with more than one Secretary of State for Health and Social Care playing to the populist media demands for face-to-face appointments, regardless of need.

If the only story out there in the world is the one put out by an antagonistic press, then that story becomes the one that people tell each other whenever the service falls short of their expectations.

With clinical and support staff at such high risk of demoralisation and consequent resignation, is it time for a compelling communications campaign (hopefully award-winning) focused on telling the true story about primary care and the experience of its patients?

Well, we may well have one that colleagues in Bradford District and Craven have been leading on, which will be scaled up across West Yorkshire. ‘It’s a GP practice thing’ has been designed to help people understand more about primary care; the different health and care professionals available to support people; know more about terms we use such as triage; and help our communities to access primary care that works for them and helps our colleagues too. My plea is can you help us get this message out through your contacts, community groups and any communication channels you have.

Elaine Appelbee (you can find me on Twitter @elaineappelbee)

Independent Chair for Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership Board