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Hello everyone my name is Elaine and I’m delighted and privileged to say that I am the independent chair of the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership Board. This is my first blog and I am committed to sharing my reflections on a regular basis.

I write this blog as many people are beginning a new term at school, college or university. This is the same feeling I’ve had recently as this is a new beginning for me or possibly a return to my roots.

The real pleasure of starting a new job is meeting and getting to know new colleagues. The Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership is made up of people from primary care, three NHS trusts, two local authorities, independent care providers and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Together we serve a population of over 650,000 and employ between us around 33,000 colleagues doing amazing things every single day.

The focus for my first ever blog is to highlight the work going on in Craven, a part of the world which is very close to my heart as a local resident.

One of the first people I met was Paul Shevlin, Chief Executive of Craven District Council. What struck me straight away was Paul’s passion for ensuring that the actions of the District Council benefit the health and wellbeing of the people of Craven. Supporting people to be healthy and to live as full a life as possible is not just a job for health partners, of course. A lot of what we do in partnership is about creating the right conditions for people to live ‘happy, healthy at home’.

Paul understands that people’s health is first and foremost affected by the quality of their day to day lives – for example, the quality of the housing and the surrounding environment that they live in. He explained that the Council, although a district council of modest size, takes pride in the contribution it makes. It has started to build shared ownership property on its own land, now totalling nearly 70 affordable homes. It has developed and enhanced leisure facilities to encourage and support people’s ability to exercise. Parks play an important role in this and he described how Aireville Park has benefitted from an improved play area, skateboard park and even tree top adventures with Raven Tree Top Adventure. I must confess I didn’t think that a head for heights was in my job description!

It was heartening to hear of the work being done to make physical activity as accessible and inclusive for people as possible. A great example of this is to be found at the swimming pool. The Council has invested in a moveable floor which enables swimmers with disabilities to access the pool in a safe and dignified manner.

Culture enhances our lives, especially our mental wellbeing. Paul and I met up in the fabulously refurbished Town Hall which offers Craven citizens and all their visitors the opportunity to get to know their history in the Craven Museum, as well as to attend theatre and musical events. The meeting rooms of different sizes are well used by schools and voluntary and community groups, many of whom support those with mental and physical health needs and their carers. Again inclusion is key here.

Craven District Council will come to the end of its life when the new North Yorkshire unitary authority comes into being next April. Its legacy, though will continue down the years, testimony to the passion and hard work of its elected members and officers.’

Staying with Craven, one of the first emails to land in my inbox was an invitation to attend an event exploring the transport issues affecting people’s ability to access their health appointments.  The invitation had come from Craven Communities Together Partnership. This partnership is made up of a diverse group of people and organisations with the joint aim of supporting Craven people to be “happy, healthy at home”. They work together to improve population health through joining up health, care and support. There are three such partnerships covering Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven and ten covering Bradford District.

Craven Communities Together Partnership undertook some health research across Craven, receiving more than 570 responses. A great result. One of the top concerns that emerged was the challenge of getting to health appointments. Craven covers a large geography with many small, scattered communities, especially in the north of the area. Transport provision is patchy and in some places, non-existent.

The community partnership organised a ‘discovery event’ to see if people’s collective wisdom could work up some possible solutions. People listened to input from Yorkshire Ambulance Service, shared their own knowledge and experience and looked at the issue from four perspectives: geography, demographics and alternatives to transport. They considered what they knew and had heard, identified which bits of the ‘jigsaw’ were missing, and asked what needs to change and to whom do people need to talk.

After the knowledge, evidence and ideas were discussed and absorbed each group was asked to complete the sentence: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if… and here’s what they said:

Wouldn’t it be great if:

  • we built on transport ideas such as Little Red Bus or PlusBus for Health that provide flexible door to door transport
  • health care services were local and community-based, taking services out to people (eg. Blood pressure checks) but underpinned by national guidance.
  • telemedicine was more available, used and facilitated.

I am grateful to Marion Tweed-Rycroft and Sarah Holdsworth for the time they gave to take me through the development of the partnership’s work and research.

Th discovery event underlined for me the importance of providing opportunities for partnerships to draw in the wisdom, knowledge and creativity of people in our communities. It is when people come together, community members and professionals, to listen, to learn from one another, to share their expertise and to think together that the best solutions are found. With the participation of local people as a full partner we really can be hopeful of achieving the aim our partnerships share, that of enabling the people of Craven and Bradford District to be ‘happy, healthy, at home’.

This is my first blog and I’ve also recently recorded my first podcast, where I was in conversation with the Place Lead for our partnership – Mel Pickup (who is also Chief Executive for Bradford Teaching Hospitals), with thanks to colleagues at Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s communications team. More details will follow soon.

I’d really welcome your views on my first ever blog, which almost takes me back to the days of school reports.

Elaine Appelbee

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