Wigan Deal could be role model for the NHS, says think tank

Wigan Council leader Coun David Molyneux
Wigan Council leader Coun David Molyneux

A major think tank has called on the NHS to learn from cash-starved Wigan Council’s pioneering way of making ends meet.

The independent report titled A Citizen-led Approach to Health and Care: Lessons From the Wigan Deal has been published by The King’s Fund, giving an insight into the authority’s approach to transformation which, it argues, could be applied to national NHS organisations.

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Since 2011, the council has saved more than £140m by handing over some services it traditionally provided to charities, volunteers and community organisations.

During that time, the borough has seen a significant increase in healthy life expectancy, bucking the national trend due to new asset-based approach to health.

And there has been significant improvement in the quality of care homes, with a remarkable increase in those rated “good” by the CQC, staff engagement has improved, school readiness figures are now in line with the national average and in March the Local Government Chronicle named Wigan its Council of the Year.

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

The authors add: “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 £6.9m 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.

“The approach to leadership developed in Wigan is something that the NHS would do well to learn from.”

Wigan Council leader David Molyneux said: “This report has highlighted some key lessons, while identifying areas for us to focus on in the next few years, particularly at the citizen-state relationship level. I hope our journey helps to inspire others.”