A MASSIVE £23.5 million is to be invested in Oldham to enable the "greatest and fastest" improvement in residents’ health and wellbeing, and to counter the effects of austerity.

Oldham Council and Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) successfully bid for money from the Greater Manchester Transformation Fund, and aim to use it both to improve care and close their forecasted financial gap of £71m.

Donna McLaughlin, alliance director at Oldham Cares, told a meeting of the commissioning partnership board that the vision was for Oldham to be a place where "all communities and families thrive".

“A thriving Oldham also means that people live healthy lives with support to stay well, and when they need it they have seamless coordinated care delivered by the right person in the right place,” she said.

“So we’re making sure all our work is on promoting both mental and physical wellbeing, rather than the prevention of ill health.

“This aims to deliver the greatest and fastest possible improvement in health and wellbeing for people in the community.”

The cash will be invested in transforming the borough through the "Thriving Communities" project and improving children’s health through "Start Well".

They want to raise the standards of mental health services both in provision and wellbeing, and make community services better integrated and closer to people’s homes.

Donna added: “The vision is for communities to have power to be healthy, happy and well and to make positive choices.”

The Start Well project is based on evidence from a paper written at Imperial College London which looks specifically at reducing hospital admissions for children aged five and under.

It will see paediatricians work more with GPs and in the community, and would make Oldham only the second local authority in the country to try this approach.

Initially the scheme will focus around diabetes, allergies and respiratory services because these are major causes for children attending hospital.

Chair of the CCG, Majid Hussain told members it had taken "blood, sweat and tears2"to get to this point in the huge project.

“We’re only getting this money once, and what we’ve got to be assured of is that we’re getting the best value, best outcome, and best benefit for every single pound we spend,” he said.

“We need to be measuring what difference have we made to the community and the services we provide. Are they more effective, are they more efficient in terms of cost.”

It’s intended that the Greater Manchester funding would save £1.5m a year by transforming the children’s services and a further £1.8m annually from changes to mental health provision.

But Dr John Patterson, chief clinical officer at the CCG, said they had to be aware of the effects of austerity in calculating the success of the projects.

“We’re not doing any of this in a vacuum,” he told members.

“And we might fantastically change the paediatric attendances at A&E for Oldham, but we have to be aware of those numbers when they come to the board.

“From 2000 to 2010, morbidity and mortality showed its greatest improvement following the original investment around the millennium around health inequality.

“The problem being that from 2010 we’ve had the biggest leap in mortality and morbidity.

“If our workforce and our plans are coming together and doing something amazing, we may need to share a story of how, despite austerity and being a trial site for universal credit ahead of most of the country, that has had an impact on these figures but nevertheless it has not been in vain because it has brought about this change.

“It is the biggest jump in deterioration of health outcomes we have seen in the last 40 years and then we’re stepping into that fast flowing river and starting to go the other way.”

He added: “I am confident we are going to make an impact, but we might have to sell that impact in a more nuanced way.”

The board recommended that they move to delivery of the plan, but it agreed that it will be first piloted in two ‘clusters’ in the borough before being fully rolled out.