Progress towards Healthy Aging in Europe, no less!

This morning I was on my way by 6am to head to Ipswich to give a breakfast meeting speech at Trinity Park to welcome to all attending the event (including the European partners) in my role as Cabinet Member for Health in Suffolk picking up on new role the County Council is playing in Public Health.

This project is good news for Suffolk firstly because it is being funding by the award of 275,000 euro’s that our Suffolk project team including Healthy Ambitions Suffolk, were able to secure from the EU funding pots and secondly because its involves six main partner organisations from five EU regions – Italy, Germany, Spain and Denmark all of whom bring their own experiences and history to the project. The project aims to identify the benefits of healthy and active ageing and use them to inform innovative and sustainable approaches to health and long term care provision across the EU. This has a strong connection to the designation of 2012 as the ‘European year for Active Ageing’ as well as to one of the four main actions of the EU 2020 agenda for new skills and jobs. There are many who decry European projects but I say, if funding is there, let’s use that to help us find ways to do things better.

The event was split into two main sections – a ‘breakfast meeting’ from 7.30am -9.30am, primarily aimed at local businesses to help them discuss the importance of active and healthy ageing and a ‘transnational conference’ from 9.30am onwards where the EU regions will be sharing their insights into how we might design a shared approach to healthy ageing in Europe. It was a really interesting day and this along with our involvement with the EUREGHA organisation hearing from different prospective from different countries is a very powerful way in which we will learn to do thing better than we do today, not by spending more money but by spending the money we do have more wisely.

I am following the work of the project closely and will want to present to the Cabinet the findings of the project when completed.

To Brussels and back!

A couple of weeks ago it was agreed at a meeting of the East of England Local Government Group Lead member for Health and Adult Social Services Network, where we come together to discuss all things Public Health, Health Services and Social Care that we would become a founding member of a new organisation called the European Regional and Local Health Authorities or EUREGHA for short.

And so on Thursday after a full day’s work, I travel to Brussels; I managed to get to the hotel at 7:30pm just in time to check  and off to a meeting with Paul Laffin to finish drafting my two speeches for the following day, then off for a Belgium steak frites in his local; thankfully his office the East of England European office was only a few yards from the hotel.

On Friday morning we met up and walked to the founding General Assembly in the splendid surroundings of the Congress of the Regions.

I think that love or loath the European Union and putting aside the seismic battle that is taking place to save the Euro whatever the currency there is a lot of funding worth chasing down as we work to find ever better ways to help and support our ageing population.

The previous membership of the forerunner to this organisation was a key factor in Suffolk leading being successful late last year with a successful funding bid to the European union with our ACS team now leading a work programme across Europe on Active Ageing and we, little old Suffolk won 375,000 euro worth of funding to lead it and pay for it, a great achievement and in part I am in Brussels to cement this and build on it for the whole of the Eastern region’s Health and Social Care sector.

The aims of the new organisation are very much along the lines the Network  to share our different approaches so we can help each other not waste time and money ‘reinventing the wheel’, or worse doing things by trial and error. We have influence and power and with power comes responsibility; to make sure that we are making the right moves and we do that by making sure that we learn from the best and indeed from what has not worked elsewhere.

Importantly the East of England membership is free, a price I like, in fact better than free because it was proposed that our East of England office would provide the new organisation with office space; one desk in lieu of the 5,000 euros membership fee and one desk to be rented to the new organisation actually allowing us to reduce the running costs office, brilliant.

The opening sessions were very much along the lines of what I was wanting to hear, speaker after speaker talked about an ageing society and the need to better integration of Health and Social Care services; I wanted to hear this as my agreed task was to push for the organisation to focus on this very issue. We also receive updates on findings so far on the important on-going work streams around eHeath, Cancer treatment and Benchmarking that are going on across Europe.

After the morning sessions we walked to the European Parliament and had lunch to discuss the progress of the organisation, it was here that I made my ‘intervention’ strange term but that is what a proposal is called in Europe, asking that we add Social and Health care integration as the next work stream to look at; this seemed to be broadly speaking agreed as the next stream, half the task for the day completed and a nice lunch and ice breaking session to bott!

After lunch we walked to the European Regional offices of Lower Austria the second set of speeches and the formal signing of the charter document. That done I rushed back to my hotel which was opposite their office, collected my bags and onto the metro to get back to the Eurostar station Gard du Midi just in time to catch the 5:56 to London as I was attending a dinner in London on the Friday evening ahead of a mini conference the next day for the Next Generation of the Leadership Centre Alumni.

All in all a fascinating day’s work; meeting and working with my opposite numbers from across Europe and hopefully the start of us in the Eastern Region being better and better at unlocking European funding, the big push for the new organisation will be for the 2014-2020 funding round where across Europe there is 446 million euros being made available for suitable projects now that is funding we need to be extremely focused on and membership of  EUREGHA is a corner stone of our Suffolk and East of England approach.

Not only is there funding out but there is also real learning to be had from other regions of europe.

Tomorrow I am meeting my opposite number in Lower Austria and I really want us to learn from their integrated Care model across health and social care. Sweden are also at the meeting and their Dementia services are something every one is keen to understand better.

Whatever you think of Europe we are all facing an ageing population and the one thing I know is its really daft to use a trial and error method of doing thing’s.

It’s always far better and cheaper to get out there, engage and find the best ways to be something, learning from the best.

Anyway enough of that back to the mountain of papers to be read before my meeting this evening.

A meeting far away

Last Wednesday I travelled into Essex, for a meeting of the East of England Local Government Group Lead member for Health and Adult social services Network, where we come together to discuss all things Public Health, Health Services and Social Care.

The network is where member from across Eastern Region or as I like to call it East Anglia, gather to discuss all things Public Health, Health Services and Social Care so that we learn from each other and try not to “re-invent the wheel”.

I have the singular honour to be its Chairman and reach meeting is hosted by one of the group this quarter’s turn was Essex and so the splendid surroundings of Essex County Council we heard from officers working on the Health Watch agenda both from the Department of Health perspective and the work that Essex CC are doing in establishing theirs.

It’s a great group and I think by sharing our different approaches we can and help each other not waste time and money ‘reinventing the wheel’, or worse doing things by trial and error. We have influence and power and with power comes responsibility; to make sure that we are making the right moves and we do that by making sure that we learn from the best and indeed from what has not worked elsewhere.

I suspect we all think that the changes and the development of the Health and Well Being Boards are a really good development, so good in fact that I suspect most people something that most of us thought it existed already!

Paul Laffin from the East of England European Office presented a paper on why we as a network should become a founding member of a new organisation in Europe called the European Regional and Local Health Authorities or EUREGHA for short.

We all agreed that  we can and should learn from Europe where we know the Lower Austrian Region has been integrating services for years and other places are exemplars as to how go about things such as the Swedish work on dementia Care services, the whole of Europe has the same issues we face with an ageing population and we should be learning from each other.

The first question that sprang to mind is that we are Lead Members and Portfolio holders predominantly for Social Care and often Public Health but that other than the influence in the Health and Well Being Boards we are not ‘Health’. If was discussed that in fact Health at the moment is not organised with Democratic representation and that our network was the closest thing we have to a Regional Democratic health Structure, my mind cast back to my thoughts on Health Commissioners but I digress.

The second question was how much, I was very much aware that our previous membership of the forerunner to this organisation was a key factor in Suffolk leading a successful bid late last year and getting 375,000 euros of funding for our active ageing research and work programme. Our membership would be free, a price I like, in fact better than free because it was proposed that our East of England office would provide the new organisation with office space 1 desk in lieu of the 5,000 euros membership fee and one desk to be rented to the new organisation actually allowing us to reduce the running costs of the East of England office in Brussels.

The it was resolved that we should as a group representing our region become a member of a new organisation and that I am Chairman should attend the opening General Assembly and be a co-signature to its founding.

It seems to me that Europe is a bit like marmite but whether you love or loath it; there is vast amounts of funding available for projects to make improvement in all areas of local government’s delivery of services and we should hunt that down,  just as the rest do; Brussels here I come!

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