Wednesday, 9 March 2011

NHS Expo 2011 - day one

‘Innovation for a healthier future’ is the theme for the two day event which started today in London. The hottest gig in town though was the first keynote speaker, Andrew Lansley (UK secretary of state for health) and the title of his presentation was ‘How the modernisation plans will encourage innovation to drive up quality and value’

I have read many transcripts of Lansley’s speeches and viewed webcasts but this was the first time I had seen him perform live. (I was pathetically looking forward to this – must get a life).

I nurtured the vague hope (see previous blog) that this speech would be different. After all – the title wasn’t ‘My plans for the NHS’. Been there, done that, bought the T shirt. But after a promising but brief start, one minute and 56 seconds to be precise (as I said – I must get a life) Lansley launched into exactly the same rhetoric as the live webcast for the British Medical Association on Monday. The only difference was that every few minutes he incorporated the word ‘innovation’ into the text as a nod to the theme of the occasion.

He is an excellent orator and quite credible but as with so many politicians – didn’t actually answer a single question to my (and I suspect the majority of the audience) satisfaction. Several hospital consultants asked very pertinent questions about funding. One asked how to move forward with innovation if the GP commissioners won’t fund certain service initiatives. We didn’t really get an answer on that one. Another asked about quantifying patient feedback. Someone from a PCT asked about a telehealth innovation that the GP commissioners wouldn’t fund. Lansley suggested that a conversation between the PCT and commissioners would resolve that.

One audience member stood up and said he was ‘very excited’ about the reforms’. I shall let you guess – was this excited member of the audience:
a)     Hospital Physician
b)     Pharmacist
c)     Hospital Manager
d)     GP

No prizes for answer d)

But enough of the sarcasm. In Lansley’s defence – he spoke passionately about thrombolysis treatment for stroke but interestingly failed to mention that the national stroke strategy that initiated these improvements was created in December 2007 long before the word ‘coalition’ played a part in the political landscape in the UK.

He spoke very sensibly about the fact that change is uncomfortable and this is where I see the greatest opportunity for innovation. Innovation of approach.

As with so many events like this, it is the coffee break conversations that are so valuable. And my overwhelming impression was that healthcare professionals now accept that these reforms are going to happen whether they like it or not. This newfound ‘power’ for GPs could also be a huge burden and the real challenge will be to get everyone along the patient pathway to work together and agree best practice.

As I made my way home this evening I pondered that despite my well documented reservations about the reforms – as a facilitator and trainer in clinical pathway mapping – I think I’ll continue to be pretty busy for the foreseeable future.


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