A quiet revolution worth shouting about
The last year has been amongst the most turbulent in the history of the NHS. Indeed, in a recent report respected health think-tank The King's Fund described it as being a "particularly challenging environment for NHS organisations"
An event held in the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre at City earlier this week brought together key figures from the health and social care arenas to discuss the scale of the problems facing the health and social care system and to suggest some solutions.
Introducing the event, City's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Curran, signalled the importance of City's new MSc in Advanced Practice in Health and Social Care courses to the improvement of specialist skills within healthcare.
The need for such specialist knowledge was made clear during the course of the keynote lecture by Dr Anna van der Gaag, Chair of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the organisation which sets the standards for a range of health and social care practitioners from social workers to dieticians.
During her talk Dr van der Gaag painted "a rather gloomy picture" of the challenges being faced by health and care professionals, quoting tragedies such as Baby Peter in Haringey, Daniel Pelka in Coventry and the appalling events in Mid Staffordshire. She said that these scandals mean that, like other industries, self-regulation is no longer accepted by the public.
Another worrying trend revealed by Dr van der Gaag is that in the four years up to 2011 complaints to the Nursing and Midwifery Council about doctors, nurses and HCPC registered professionals in the UK have more than doubled.
With a rise in complaints, diminishing resources and increasing competition Dr van der Gaag believes that organisations such as the HCPC need to bring about a "quiet revolution" by focusing on improving six key areas such as technology, patient involvement and the implementation of research findings.
Dr van der Gaag acknowledged the scale of the task ahead and stressed the need for practitioners to be compassionate and creative, saying: "We need to bring creativity into our working lives in the way we do in our personal lives."
At the end of a passionate and energetic speech Dr van der Gaag closed by quoting the words of Irish poet John O'Donohue, who she said had captured exactly the kind of spirit she wanted to bring to health and social care:
"May your work never weary you. May it release within you the wellsprings of refreshments, inspiration and excitement. May you be present in what you do."
After the keynote talk Dr van der Gaag joined a panel of distinguished guests for a discussion on the future of health and social care. The panel included: Dr Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing, Health Education England; Professor David Fish, Managing Director, UCLPartners; Professor Chris Fowler, Managing Director, Health Education North Central and East London and Matthew Hodson, Nurse Consultant, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Nursing Standard's Nurse of the year for 2013.
Each panel member discussed their own perspective before the debate was opened to questions from the floor and the audience of academics, practitioners and School of Health Sciences students didn't disappoint, providing the panel with a number of challenging questions, particularly on the type and scale of reforms required.
Indeed, the scale of the reform required was a particularly revealing topic and Professor Stanton Newman, Dean of the School of Health Sciences who was chairing the event, said the protests against hospital closures were an especially apposite example of this failure to communicate the need for change to the public, asking the panel: "How can we help the public understand that a move from hospital focussed care to a community based support is better for them?"
Professor David Fish of UCLPartners captured the mood of the event when he agreed with Dr van der Gaag about the need for a revolution but with one difference, saying "I'm not sure I want a quiet revolution. I think I'd be happier with a noisy one."
Following the debate guests and speakers retired to the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre foyer where the debate continued over drinks and canapés.