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Former health secretary praises ECCH’s focus on innovation

Staff at East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) have been praised by the former Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt.

On 15 November, Patricia visited teams at the social enterprise, which provides community-based NHS and social care in Norfolk and Suffolk, as part of her role as Chair-designate of the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board.

During her time as a Minister in Tony Blair’s Cabinet, Mrs Hewitt championed the creation of social enterprises to provide health and social care services. She asked to visit ECCH to learn about how the community health provider operates as she works on plans to improve the local health service.

She met with staff from ECCH’s Primary Care Home (PCH) teams at Shrublands Health Centre in Gorleston. These multidisciplinary teams including nurses, therapists and social care staff work closely with local GP practices, and are central to ECCH’s innovative approach to delivering community healthcare. The group discussed addressing health inequalities in the local area, including the need for closer working with mental health practitioners.


Patricia also listened to staff’s perspectives on the current challenges facing the healthcare system in light of COVID-19, praising staff for their invaluable hard work throughout the pandemic.

The day also saw Patricia visit ECCH’s teams at Minsmere Ward on the Beccles Health Campus. The unit provides in-patient rehabilitation and reablement, as well as housing six palliative care beds with specialist consultant support from St Elizabeth Hospice. Patricia was particularly impressed with the ward’s use of technology to enhance patient care. ECCH is one of the first organisations in the region to implement a pioneering software which provides a more seamless way for staff to schedule, record, view and escalate a wide range of patient observations.

Patricia then met with the Waveney PCH team, who are based at the Beccles site. She was impressed to learn of the ‘Virtual Discharge Room’ – an initiative introduced during the pandemic to enable closer working between Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils, the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) and ECCH to facilitate discharges from the JPUH.

Patricia praised ECCH’s flexibility and willingness to solve problems, commenting “Having an organisation that thinks differently is important within the healthcare system. It leads others to consider innovation and ensures things keep moving forwards.”

ECCH’s Chief Executive Ian Hutchison said: “It was great for our teams to have a chance to chat to Patricia and tell her about the innovations they’ve been working on to improve patient experience and outcomes. From the nature of her role within the ICS, Patricia wants to see increased collaboration between health and care providers. This was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate how we’re already working closely with our partners, and how integration is producing better results.”

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ECCH Communications team

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