Blog Article

Simon says…

Posted by Lubna Haq

Lubna Haq

What strikes me about NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens’ recent speech at the NHS Confederation conference is that the system needs to focus less on dealing with people when they are ill, and more on dealing with them when they are well – and doing its best to make sure they stay that way.

This was evident in the three key trends that emerged:

  • Responsibility: Patients taking ownership of their own health.
  • Revolution: Making the best use of new technology, digital services and sound data to support that.
  • Responsiveness: A more efficient, demand-led service that looks “up and out”, taking inspiration from other systems in the UK and elsewhere.

For this to work there needs to be far greater integration between public health, health education, and primary care. Healthcare providers will need to have a better understanding of the communities in which they operate and the needs of those communities; they must also strive to deliver a consistent service through multiple points of contact.

Greater integration between health and social services combined with more robust data will allow services to look at the whole person, and ensure that primary care is used more effectively. While acute intervention will always be available for those who need it, Stevens’ vision includes far better support in the community and greater use of technology to maintain an efficient service.

One of the biggest challenges here will be achieving a change of mindset among members of the public. People will need help to take responsibility for not being ill, rather than expecting doctors to fix everything.

All this means chief executives will need to operate very differently in the future: they will need to constantly question why things are done in the ways that they are and ask if there is a better, more efficient, more effective way. They will need to have conversations about what information they should gather from communities and how they can use the knowledge that comes from the data to respond appropriately and provide the best service. They will need to flex and adapt.

They will need to be pace-setting to clarify the agenda and make these changes happen; they will need to be more prepared to take risks – enabled by the intelligence they have gathered; they will need to work well with partners to gather knowledge that enables them to become more sophisticated in the way they think about commissioning services.

While adapting to the new integrated landscape may seem challenging and onerous, Stevens’ vision is not intended as a stick to beat the service with. Rather it should support the work of healthcare providers and enable them to do things differently and more successfully in the future.


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