9 March, 2017
9:00 am - 2:30 pm

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health

Health Conference 2017: NHS reform at pace and scale

On Thursday 9 March, Reform held its 2017 health conference, 'NHS reform at pace and scale'. The conference discussed key levers for NHS transformation with panels focusing on Sustainability and Transformation Plans, workplace health and better care for less.

Keynote speech

In his keynote speech, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, focused on the importance of patient safety. The variation in adverse events and patient care across the NHS is unacceptable and costly. He said "unsafe care is the most expensive care you can give" and that it is the failure to spread good practice that is hampering success. His plan is twofold. Firstly, the NHS must continue to work on an open culture with strong leadership that puts patient safety at its core. Secondly, From April, the NHS will be the first country in the world to publish an avoidable-mortality record.

Panel one: Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs)

  • Jane Milligan, Lead, North East London STP and Chief Officer, Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Dr Wendy Thomson, Lead, Norfolk and Waveney STP and Chief Executive of Norfolk County Council
  • Dr Nigel Fraser, Chairman, Taurus Healthcare
  • Nicola Sturt, Market Access Director, Baxter Healthcare

The first panel, held in partnership with Baxter Healthcare, discussed the successes of STPs and the challenges they face. The panel unanimously supported a single payment system for all organisations delivering health and social care in order to promote out of hospital care. Jane Milligan said that, in her STP, stakeholders’ engagement with NHS reform is variable. Dr Wendy Thompson asked the question: will power be truly devolved? She explained that STPs can learn from local government in the way that they have overcome tensions between districts and counties. Dr Nigel Fraser said that STPs should be more transformation and less transactional. He believed this is about a culture shift, about giving areas an identity to achieve staff buy-in. Nicola Sturt reinforced the idea that for organisations to work together, funding incentives must be aligned.

Panel two: Workplace health

  • Professor Dame Carol Black DBE, Expert Adviser on Health and Work to NHS England and Public Health England
  • Dr Charles Alessi, Senior Adviser, Public Health England
  • Professor Abhinay Muthoo, Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick and Dean of Warwick in London
  • Bernie Hurn, Head of New Propositions, Corporate and Consumer, Simplyhealth

The second panel, held in partnership with Simplyhealth, was a timely discussion on workplace health. Professor Dame Carol Black explained that the evidence for wellbeing programmes in work is growing that that in future these should focus on bullying, mental health, obesity and physical activity. Charles Alessi said that it is in everybody’s interest to promote good work as it improves physical and mental health. Professor Abhinay Muthoo focused on prevention saying that society should concentrate on the decisions people make before they come unwell. Bernie Hurn said that it is for employers to facilitate early access to health care for employees.

Panel three: Better care for less

  • Lord Carter of Coles, Author, ‘Operational productivity and performance in English NHS acute hospitals: Unwarranted variations’
  • Sir David Dalton, Chief Executive Officer, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Hospital
  • Dr Penelope Dash, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company
  • Dr Rowland Illing DM MRCS FRCR, Chief Medical Officer, Affidea

The third panel, held in partnership with Affidea, addressed the issue of delivering better care for less. The panel concluded that for years the NHS has known what it needs to do to deliver meaningful reform but progress has been painfully slow. Lord Carter explained that the variation in care is unacceptable and a principal cause of NHS inefficiency. Sir David Dalton said that the slow pace of change in the NHS hinders transformation and suggested that to overcome the inertia of decision making, the 240 hospitals should come together into 60-80 groups able to take advantage of economies of scale and share ideas. Dr Penelope Dash also spoke of the inertia in NHS transformation. Since working as Director of Strategy at the Department of Health in 2000 she has understood the keys to success to be primary care reform, improved hospital efficiency and a move to reduced capacity in acute care. Dr Rowland Illing explained that updating the NHS’s use of technology by using better data analytics and transparent benchmarking can deliver consistently efficient care.

Reform’s conference is a key part of the health policy calendar, with over 200 people in attendance every year. You can read the articles that were produced for the event here.