Health expert says Wigan Deal is an NHS role model

Prof Chris Ham
Prof Chris Ham
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The chief executive of a leading health think tank has urged the NHS to adopt the principles of the Wigan Deal for the next 10 years.

Prof Chris Ham, who is the 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 would emphasise people’s responsibility to use services appropriately and keep healthy, Prof Ham said, as well as see law and policy-makers working more closely with communities.

Through The Deal, which was launched in 2014, the council changed its relationship with residents so it works with communities to create a better borough.

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

The council also invested £9m in local community groups to address some social issues.

These principles have been applied to the council’s joined-up work on health devolution with its 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.”

Council leader David Molyneux 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 Wigan Deal for a number of years now, and we are successfully applying the same principles to health services and settings.”