Healthcare is one of the most important issues, both nationally and locally, and more so as the NHS and social care services look to rebuild after the pandemic.

It is also undergoing significant reform through the NHS Long Term Plan, which aims to address concerns and pressures from a growing and aging population.

People will always be at the heart of healthcare, but the Long Term Plan will also consider the opportunities that technology and medical advances can offer.

The structure of the NHS does remain complex, but the introduction of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) from last week will see local organisations come together to plan and deliver joined-up health and care services for local communities.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICS will cover a significant area, serving a population of 1.9 million.

It includes three acute hospital trusts, one ambulance service partnership, two community and mental-health trusts, 158 GP practices and around 77,000 NHS and social care staff.

Working together across all of these areas will undoubtedly have its challenges, but the benefits could be significant, with a focus on improving outcomes and getting closer to communities.

We’ve already seen part of this longer-term vision, with Petersfield Hospital becoming an Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) last year. The service is now able to treat a wider range of conditions and is open 12 hours a day, every day.

And announced in 2020, plans for a new hospital near Basingstoke will be the centrepiece of a much wider programme that brings together NHS and social care providers across Alton, Andover, Basingstoke, Eastleigh, Winchester and the surrounding areas.

The impact of the programme will involve GPs, mental health, community care, social care and the wider voluntary sector, as well as acute hospital care.

There was also recent news on proposals for an elective hub to be built in Winchester and operational by spring 2024, serving the needs of the whole of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight area.

This would provide more capacity for non-urgent operations, including those for urology (kidney, bladder and urinary), ear, nose and throat (ENT) and orthopaedics (such as hip and knee replacements).

Closer to home, progress is being made on the new health hub in Whitehill & Bordon, with funding secured to bring together primary and community care services, working with both the Badgerswood and Forest surgeries as well as the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (SHFT).

Planning proposals are due to be submitted in the autumn, with construction to start in mid-2023, and of course Chase Hospital will remain open until the new health hub is fully operational.

And with a new maternity facility at Badgerswood Surgery, as well as a new 22-bed rehabilitation and recovery ward at Alton Community Hospital, there are important steps being taken to improve how local communities are served.