HEALTH chiefs have finally secured an agreement from doctors to work in four teams across Blackburn with Darwen, which they believe can significantly improve patient care.

For several years there have been efforts to get GP surgeries, social workers and community nurses to work in ‘localities’ within the borough, so they can better understand the needs of patients within each area.

Although GPs are likely to be familiar with patients on their own practice register, an increasing number of patients are now referred to social services and community support.

These support workers cover larger areas, so often find themselves dealing with new cases.

But after a successful pilot in the east of the borough, involving patients registered with Roman Road, St George’s and Cornerstone surgeries, health chiefs now believe they can achieve far greater ‘integration’ of care across the borough.

The plan now is for four separate teams of social workers and community nurses to focus around groups of GP surgeries, in Darwen and the north, east and west of the borough.

Dr Chris Clayton, chief clinical officer at Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The beauty of this is that health, social care and community nursing all agreed to working on those four localities.

“It’s a really positive step and I don’t believe anywhere in Lancashire has got that.”

The idea is to tackle the root cause of people’s problems, to avoid GPs being faced with issues which they can do little to solve, which is a waste of NHS resources.

There will also be increased co-operation and partnership working between GPs within each grouping.

About £12 million will be invested in the scheme by Blackburn with Darwen Council and the NHS, to benefit patients with a mix of health and social care needs who have previously had to deal with two or more organisations.

Such as drug addicts, older people with long term conditions or young people with mental health problems.

The government’s recent health reforms have given GPs greater responsibility in planning NHS services.

Dr Penny Morris, who works at Darwen Health Centre and sits on the CCG board, said: “If you talk to any GP they’ll tell you lots of patients come to see them and it may not be a medical problem.

'But there are early signs that we’re on the right track with reducing (hospital) admissions and identifying patients who regularly use healthcare.”