It goes without saying how proud I am of the Welsh NHS Confederation team for pulling off such a fantastic conference and exhibition, despite the challenges faced along the way! I’d also like to say a huge thank you to every delegate, speaker, exhibitor, sponsor and our event partners, ABPI Cymru Wales, Novartis and Wagestream, for helping to make it so successful.
Making change takes passion, challenging the inevitability of our thinking and having the humility of going to the very people we’re trying to help and tackling it together, rather than making decisions on their behalf.
After a hugely inspiring day, I’ve reflected on some of the key takeaways for me. Following a long period of predominantly virtual meetings, there was a real sense of coming together to learn and think differently about how we can collectively tackle solutions. The conference and exhibition allowed us space for broader thinking and, crucially, hearing different perspectives. It’s so easy to get bogged down dealing with the day-to-day, where we speak and connect with the same people and organisations, so hearing those wider viewpoints was both necessary and refreshing.
As Dr Andy Knox said in the health inequalities session, co-designing solutions to issues is imperative if we are to make real progress in narrowing the gap. Making change takes passion, challenging the inevitability of our thinking and having the humility of going to the very people we’re trying to help and tackling it together, rather than making decisions on their behalf. Heather Moorhead echoed the need for leaders to understand what it’s like in the community and have those voices at the table, and later in Novartis’ session, Sarah Goman, senior pharmacy technician for Velindre Cancer Centre, emphasised the value of community champions. She reminded us of the importance of the small, practical steps we can take to make the biggest difference to a patient’s care and their outcomes.
Many speakers, including Dr Sumina Azam and Matthew Taylor, reminded us that we need to move beyond describing the problems in front of us – we have the awareness and even the commitment to move forwards – but we must truly understand solutions and turn this into action. We know that to address inequalities, we must consider health in all policies and invest in sectors wider than health, especially as we plunge further into the cost-of-living crisis.
It was undoubtedly a highlight to hear from Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson about her story and experiences – both her physical and metaphorical journey through life. Her connection with the NHS was moving and she shared the powerful nugget that those who believed in her, who listened to her, who invested their time in her, made the biggest difference to her life and what it could look like.
It served as a timely reminder that the most important thing is what matters to the individual.
The harmonious sound of Choirs for Good not only brought joy but highlighted the importance of community and community wellbeing, the arts and social change. A shining example of the power of coming together during difficult times. The appetite for, understanding of, and commitment to build on arts and health approaches was not only apparent throughout the day but struck me as being significantly further forward and higher up the agenda than it has been previously.
It was a true privilege to listen to Youth Parliament members Fatmanur, Harriet and Qahira share their honest reflections and experiences of accessing care and what matters to young people. After all, young people are the future and I’ve no doubt these three young women have extremely bright futures ahead of them. Waiting times and mental health were high on their agenda and they delivered some important home truths about making the NHS a more attractive and accessible place to work for the future generation, offering up solutions. It’s reassuring to know the future of this country will be in their generations’ hands.
In the words of Aneurin Bevan, "The NHS will last as long as there are folk with faith left to fight for it".
Our social care panel also offered honest reflections, with the most poignant from Jayne Newman, an unpaid carer, on the realities of the challenges she faces. It served as a timely reminder that the most important thing is what matters to the individual.
Dr Anya Skatova offered a fresh perspective on how we can use loyalty card data to improve and transform public health. Used alongside other insights, there is so much we can learn about our population, for example how the rising cost of living affects diets and targeting intervention by providing healthy food vouchers and offers. The importance of data in taking action was echoed by Rachael Barlow in Novartis’ session on disruptive innovation. She posed the poignant question: Whose responsibility is it to lead on a whole-system approach? Who will make things happen?
As with any conference, meeting or event, the most important part is what happens next: continuing conversations, building on them, making new connections and taking action to enable the change we need to see. We at the Welsh NHS Confederation are determined to continue these conversations, but we’ve got to be honest about the huge challenges ahead. It was clear to me that, despite the most challenging few years for leaders and organisations across health and care, there is still the drive, determination and will to make things better. As Baroness Grey-Thompson said, we need to stop being afraid of making mistakes – what matters is how we learn from them. And in the words of Aneurin Bevan, "The NHS will last as long as there are folk with faith left to fight for it".