“Too often it takes tragedy to trigger change” – Niall Dickson

Niall Dickson

Confed chief executive Niall Dickson reflected on the adverse circumstances that are often the precursor for change, and highlighted the window of opportunity that he believes now exists to change ways of working without tragedy as the catalyst.

In his address to delegates on day two of Confed18, he acknowledged that “At times of adversity and national trauma, in Manchester as in Grenfell exactly a year ago, when the spotlight is shining on this service, we see something special and even today, after 70 amazing years, it is more diverse than ever and with even greater potential.”

He suggested that now is the moment to make a decision about what the government and the NHS are willing to invest in the health and care of the growing population. Niall argued the need for an agreement made jointly with the public about what they will receive in return for a longer-term funding settlement, and that to deliver on that agreement, there must be a framework to facilitate transformation and build the necessary workforce.

Investment must be focused and targeted

Reflecting on current challenges and their relative comparisons with previous decades, he reiterated the NHS Confederation’s call for investment as identified in Securing the future, the major study into health and care funding commissioned by the NHS Confederation.

“Investment can deliver results, he said, but it needs to be focused and targeted, with a shared understanding over what can be done and over what period, and a new plan for health and care must be developed and agreed with the service and with the public.”

Posing the question of how to create a sustainable system that manages growing demand, he outlined several elements that such a system would involve, including performance management arrangements and financial incentives that support system working and encourage investment in new models of care; clear milestones towards achieving parity of esteem for both mental health and social care; a greater emphasis on support and improvement; and an honest conversation about the future of commissioning in England.

Immediate steps to address workforce crisis

Niall’s final point was on the current workforce crisis, and he identified immediate steps that the government could take to tackle it: to reform the present migration system, to make the apprenticeship levy more flexible, and to reinstate the professional development training funds – all of which are actions that the NHS Confederation, through NHS Employers, is asking the government to address.

Niall closed his speech with a call for local and national collaboration, and his hopes for the NHS Confederation’s role within that:

“We believe there has never been a more important time for the diverse organisations that make up health and care to come together locally and nationally to find common ground and to help shape a different future. We hope we can play a part in that and that our new regional team, our networks and national offices can convene, provide support, and act as a conduit between local reality and national policy.”

The main stage sessions from Confed18 are available to watch on our watch again page.

You can also download the transcript.

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