Tackling the planned care backlog requires new thinking

Speaking at the Planned Care Summit, Bevan Commission Director Helen Howson challenges health and care leaders to think differently.

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In a keynote address at yesterday’s Planned Care Summit, Bevan Commission Director Helen Howson challenged health and care leaders across Wales to think differently in order to tackle the biggest crisis in planned care services since the founding of the NHS.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for innovative thinking and new ways of working to face the immediate challenges of the pandemic, as well as our future recovery.

The Planned Care Summit, led by the Welsh Government with the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Bevan Commission, set out to engage and inspire discussions around planned care delivery in Wales. Discussion focussed on how health and care systems can incorporate and reform new ways of working to underpin new approaches to planned care.

In one of several opening keynotes, Helen Howson’s call-to-action highlighted the need for new thinking and new ways of working to tackle the backlog in planned care, which now sees more than 650,000 people across Wales waiting for treatment:

“To understand transformation, we have to think differently. We need to challenge thinking and practice, but in order to do that we have to change thinking.

“We need to try and test new ways of working, giving our workforce permission to innovate and enabling them to do this safely. We believe fundamentally that it’s the people in the system that are fundamental to this change.

“While the challenges we face today cannot be viewed through the same lens as in 1948 when Aneurin Bevan set-up the NHS, what’s really important now is that we draw on all the resources that are out there across communities and across sectors. We also need bold leadership that can transform outpatient services and embed technology across care.

“Wales is ready for this. We have the resource, we have the energy and we have the enthusiasm.”

Helen highlighted the value of the four prudent principles of healthcare as an underpinning framework through which to drive change and transformation. She also emphasised how Covid-19 has helped to validate the potential for point-of-care testing on a national scale, with the public demonstrating they can take control of testing from their own homes – “but it has a very long way to go,” she added.

Helen’s keynote spoke to two reports published this year by the Bevan Commission on Tackling the Backlog and Supporting Service Development in the Community, which were later used in the Summit as the basis of two workshops to unpack and develop solutions to some of the challenges faced by the health and care sector in Wales.

In a leaders panel, attended by Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan MS and NHS Wales’ Chief Executive Judith Paget, discussions touched on regional healthcare hubs for rural communities, the need to embrace digital, and the value of retaining the current structure of the NHS. During the panel, Helen highlighted the importance of listening to citizens’ views so access to future health and care services could be designed around their preferences.

The role of leadership was a key theme emerging from the summit, with Judith Paget, saying “This is about collective leadership and a collective leadership effort across Wales. The people of Wales absolutely deserve this.”

The summit launched with a Welsh Government announcement of an extra £170m investment in planned care services each year, highlighting the Government’s commitment to enabling a step change to meet the growing demand.

This comes alongside a further £1m funding to support health and care staff to try out and test their own innovations in planned care, a programme that has been developed with the Bevan Commission based on the principles of the successful Bevan Exemplars Programme. The Planned Care Innovations Programme will be delivered throughout 2022, led by the Bevan Commission with innovation partners across Wales.

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