AN impassioned plea has been issued to the public to take ownership of their healthcare system.

Geoff Jolliffe, Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group’s lead GP for Furness, said the county’s communities have immense strength but that it often takes a crisis to bring about action.

It comes as south Cumbria’s commissioners begin rolling out their new Integrated Care Communities, a new system for organising healthcare services based on the success of the Millom Alliance.

The innovative revamp will see different NHS teams and organisations working together to try and improve people’s overall health rather than simply providing reactive treatment when they become ill.

A key part of this, Dr Jolliffe said, will involve the public doing their bit much in the same way as the Millom Health Action Group has taken on a range of projects to promote healthier living and better use of NHS services.

The group began working closely with the CCG after resolving fears that the town’s hospital would close due to a lack of staffing.

Dr Jolliffe said: “There is a special case there, whereby they had the motivation to do something because they were facing a crisis.

“What I’d like to say to the public now is, ‘We’d love to involve you at the same sort of level, but we don’t want to burn FGH down to grab your attention.

“Your attention should be grabbed by the inequalities in healthcare, by why people die younger here, why we get more diseases. These are the things that should fire you up and can we work together on changing the way health works?’”

South Cumbria has been split into seven communities of between 20,000 and 30,000 people – three in the South Lakes, two in Barrow, one for Millom, Broughton and Kirkby and one for Dalton and Ulverston.

Each has a team comprised from various health and social care services including general practice, community nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social workers, charities and voluntary groups and mental health practitioners.

Dr John Howarth is director of service improvement for Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, one of several organisations brought together as part of the scheme.

He said: “This is about moving away from thinking about just what we do as delivering services, whether that’s ‘I work in A and E’ or, ‘I’m a GP’, or ‘I’m in district nursing’, to what we do being to improve a population’s health as a whole.

“We’re starting to develop a one-team philosophy around delivering care.

“It’s going to take several years to develop this – it’s not something we can switch on or off – but what we’re aiming to achieve really is quite exciting.”