One of our trainees attened the NHSE CSO’s Annual Conference a couple of weeks ago. Read on for a summary of the event and thoughts about the event.
By Haroon Chughtai
On the 7th and 8th of March healthcare scientists from across the nation descended upon London to attend the Chief Scientific Officer’s Annual Conference. This year’s event was entitled “Leading the Future – 2030” and focussed on how healthcare scientists are and can work nationally to drive the future NHS. This was the second year that I’ve had the opportunity to attend, and as last year, it was an inspiring and thought provoking experience.
Before I describe some of the talks and topics that were discussed, a little bit of background. The conference is hosted by NHS England’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dame Professor Sue Hill, who is the lead for the NHS’ healthcare science workforce. In addition to this, you may have heard her name as the lead in establishing the NHS Genomic Medicine Centres and spearheading the NHS contribution to the 100,000 Genomes Project.
The format of the day included plenary sessions, interactive panel discussions and workshops, as well as ample time for networking.
HCS & the LTP
A significant focus of the two days was looking ahead to what the role of healthcare scientists will be in the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan. Rather than go through each talk, here’s a quick summary of three of the themes covered during the two days.
The Digital Agenda
One of the key themes that was present was around how digital transformation is an essential enabling step to deliver the future we wish for our staff and patients. This forms a large part of the underlying infrastructure needed for delivering the Long Term Plan, as well as in enabling the areas highlighted in The Topol Review.
Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s National Director for Operations and Information presented some ideas on how the NHS would be using better digital platforms to support care across healthcare. Only by being able to share information easily, effectively and securely between groups that need it can we have a future where we are able to make an informed decision for a specific person’s healthcare no matter if their GP is in Carlisle, they’re admitted to a hospital in London, and have their samples analysed by a lab in Manchester.
The Impact on Primary Care
Such a challenge was highlighted by Dr. Nikki Kanani, a GP in south-east London and Acting Director of Primary Care for NHS England. She spoke of how primary care is changing as people now have increased access to their personal data – in her case, a patient attending a clinic with a couple of their genetic data on a memory stick. Such changes will occur whether or not the NHS drives them, so we must keep up to ensure that we can continue providing the care that people expect. Dame Prof. Sue Hill mentioned how this may require more involvement of healthcare scientists in the community as point-of-care technology and other diagnostic tests become even more ubiquitous.
Partnering and Innovating
The thought of working with industry causes some in the NHS to shrink back in fear – however a number of speakers mentioned the advantages to the patients, the NHS, and themselves. The challenge is in ensuring that the NHS and our patients get the benefit of such collaborations as much as commercial companies do.
Dr Liz Mear, Chief Executive of the Innovation Agency spoke of the work being done with The Academic Health Science Network to help spread innovation more effectively in the NHS so that health can be improved and economic growth generated.
This theme of partnering and innovating was also emphasised by Professor Tony Young OBE, the National Clinical Lead for Innovation at NHS England. He spoke of the Clinical Entrepreneur Programme which gives healthcare professionals the opportunity to develop innovations from within the NHS. From my perspective as a trainee clinical informatician who spends much of my time developing software, it is an exciting indication that there are opportunities for innovation without having to jump over to the private sector. One of the workshops on the second day expanded on this further to point out the benefits of partnering to improve information and knowledge across industry and the NHS through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.
I left the CSO’s Conference with a sense of excitement about the vision for the NHS’ next decade, and the place that Healthcare Scientists can and should have in it. There is always a lot of work to do to go between national policy and local implementations, but I truly think that all of us have a part to play in making that happen, whatever our formal positions. This echoes advice given by Kiran Chauhan, a Senior Development Adviser at NHS Improvement, who gave advice to “get involved beyond your remit and support your organisation more widely”. My take home messages for the future of Healthcare Science, were to seek partnerships to improve our services wherever we can find them and to work across specialisms, disciplines, and professions. After all, we’re all here to get the best for our patients.