PEOPLE living in and around Alton are being urged to have their say on the future of health and care services.

It is a vital review that could herald changes for the provision of local services and the long-term future of both Alton Community Hospital and Alton Health Centre.

NHS North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group is responsible for planning, developing and paying for health services in the area.

In partnership with the organisations which provide care locally, the clinical commissioning group is currently reviewing how and where care is provided for the people of Alton and its villages.

With the population of the area due to increase substantially over the coming years, the clinical commissioning group is considering what changes might be needed to ensure that health and care services are properly integrated and fit for the future. This includes GP and community services, hospital care, mental health services, and health-related social care.

In Alton in particular, services have evolved piecemeal over time and are based on a number of sites, which makes it difficult for service providers to work in a joined-up way.

Compared to other small towns, a higher proportion of the cost of service provision is being absorbed by buildings rather than services. However, there are travel challenges for people accessing services in Basingstoke, Winchester and elsewhere.

Nationally, bed blocking is a real issue, with too many patients in hospital beds who do not need to be there on clinical grounds; models of health and social care are changing, and technologies developing; there is a greater focus on prevention and on people taking control of their own care and treatment; and, aside from funding, finding and retaining appropriate staff is becoming increasingly challenging in some areas, including North Hampshire.

With more people living longer and increasing rates of long-term conditions such as diabetes, as well as the continuing financial challenges for the NHS and social care, the clinical commissioning group is focusing on developing patient-centred services, with all the organisations which provide care working together as efficiently as possible.

The review is seen as an opportunity to look more holistically at service provision; to look, for example, at decommissioning the old, where it is not working, to make space for new services; at how to empower people to take control; to dissolve the divides between professions, organisations and buildings; and to centre care around people rather than buildings, conditions or organisations.

It will describe options for integrated care services for the population of Alton and the villages; shed light on the interface between integrated care services and the model of acute service provision (inpatient and outpatient) being developed by Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust; determine if there is a requirement for in-patient NHS community beds in Alton; consult on the service and estate options and ensure public involvement at all stages in the process.

It will also oversee the implementation of the agreed service and estate options, with more focus on prevention, better management of long-term conditions to prevent inappropriate acute hospital admissions, co-ordinated integrated service for older people and those with long-term conditions, and an integrated approach to urgent and emergency care.

It will require discussion and input from stakeholder and clinical reference groups, and will welcome ideas from service users, their representatives and staff who deliver health and care services.

On the estates side, potential outcomes might be to increase services and staff operating from Alton Community Hospital to maximise its value or to close both the hospital and Alton Health Centre and to build new accommodation to meet modern service requirements.

Or it may result in the closure of both facilities and redistribution of services across existing public sector estate.

As part of the review process, and to make sure that people are kept informed and are engaged as much as possible, the clinical commissioning group is holding a first public consultation event in the town next month.

People who live or work in the area are being encouraged to go along to the Alton Maltings Centre on Tuesday, January 12, any time between 6.30pm and 8.30pm where they will be able find out more about the review of services, ask questions, and give their views.

Graham Wallis, the clinical commissioning group’s accountable officer, said: “We are keen to hear the opinions and experiences of the people who use health and care services in the Alton area so that we can take their views into account when we are planning for the future.

“The clinical commissioning group is leading a comprehensive review of health and health-related care services in Alton and a key element of that review is to hear the views of the people who use those services. We need people to tell us what works well and what could be improved for the future.”