The biggest health conference in Wales is back for another year and it promises to be bigger and more thought provoking than ever before.
A year since the publication of the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care report and seven months following the release of the Welsh Government long term plan for health and social care, “A Healthier Wales”, our conference will be an opportunity to find out what leaders across health and social care, the media and Government are focussing on.
The NHS is now 70 years old and our conference will be a chance to look at work that celebrates the excellent services we’re able to provide in Wales and analyse where further improvements are needed.
Over the past few years it can feel like we’ve focused heavily on the challenges and threats to our system. While significant pressures remain we need to look at the opportunities which could improve performance and patient outcomes, and our conference provides the perfect platform for those debates.
We’ll look at how prevention is playing a more vital role in ensuring we have a health and social care system which works for everyone. We’ve been casting our net wider and looking at how we can keep people in their homes when they need our care. Having healthy communities is key to improving our population’s health.
In November we produced a briefing which highlighted how good housing is critical to the wider determinants of health and wellbeing, with 10% of winter deaths associated with fuel poverty. If we are to help ease the strain on our health services we need to look outwardly at some of the broader societal issues which make a significant contribution to health. By taking a single whole system approach we will be able to make the best use of the collective resources and skills we have in our communities.
Wales must also continue to research and develop new ways of tackling illness. Only last month we saw some Welsh scientists leading the world in attempting to map the DNA of different strains of flu and provide vaccines which help prevent illness among the most vulnerable in our communities.
This kind of innovation is what we’re known for in Wales, and it’s these developments that will continue to keep us on the map as a global leader in health and social care. Now, with a long-term plan for Health and Social Care in place we can really focus our efforts.
I look forward to welcoming you to our conference in February which will be an opportunity for us all to come together to reflect on how we build healthier communities, to take on some of the challenges that we’re all facing and develop some of the opportunities for change within the system and make them work for us in Wales.
Vanessa Young, Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation