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Seven seminars in September

September is clearly the month to hold health seminars with the ZPB team invited to attend seven such events. With the summer coming to an end and the need to squeeze publications out before the party conferences, here is our whistle stop tour of what’s new and being discussed by the major health players.

First up was the RSA, where Volterra health launched a study of patient safety in partnership with Datix. Safety and Solvency: The case for a new approach to patient safety argues for a slightly more ‘ex-ante’ approach – giving staff the necessary tools to monitor quality and safety and bring about tangible improvements in this area. Panellists; Professor Nick Bosanquet, Stephen Dorrell, and Datix CEO, Jonathan Hazan, all seemed to agree that more ought to be done to measure and improve patient safety (not a new concern, granted) yet highlighted a lack of practical advice to achieve this. This report makes some headway in rectifying this issue.

Next stop was a coveted invite to a Cambridge Health Network meeting in the très chic Mayfair – a far cry from our more humble (but much loved) dwellings south of the river. We joined Ruth Poole, Group Clinical Director at Healthcare at Home Ltd; Alzheimer’s Society CEO, Jeremy Hughes; and Stuart Bell from South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for an impassioned discussion on how to address unmet need in dementia care – an issue close to our hearts here at ZPB. We’ll leave the expert commentary to health care blogger, Richard Smith, who’s provided a detailed write-up of proceedings here.

Dr Foster’s Intelligent Board series has become a seminal publication in NHS governance, defining the information needs and role requirements for executives and non-executives across a series of settings and themes. It was early doors at the Commonwealth Club, which saw the launch of the latest offering defining a path for clinical commissioners. Over coffee, Health Select Committee Chair, Stephen Dorrell; report Chair, Professor David Colin-Thome; and Dr Foster’s Roger Taylor talked us through some of the key steps.

Imagine a healthcare seminar where you’re encouraged to use smartphones during speeches; where meetings are defined by hashtags not titles; and where speakers are introduced by their Twitter names. Welcome to Diagnosis: a company that clearly likes to break the mould. This (and the liberal quantities of free alcohol) probably explains why so many doctors, medical students and interested ‘others’ (like us) rocked up at The Kings Fund to hear @hsjeditor, @samlistertimes and @dr_ellie talk us through the fine art of social media. This included everything from balancing patient advice with editorial demands to the merits of the Freedom of Information Act and how to handle hospital death rates. As you would expect, the ‘Diag’ team have blogged the outcome. In an industry saturated with ‘more of the same’ this session really was a breath of fresh air, so keep an eye on these guys for future seminars.

Another CHN session, this time in Baker Street and a challenge and a half: Driving hospital productivity: what do the top performers do? Speakers from Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Universal Hospital Services and Health Trust Europe were on hand, leaving us armed with some practical advice on new ways to drive productivity.

Back to Dr Foster and their Ethics Committee which has previously played host to such influential speakers as Andrew Lansley and Sir Bruce Keogh. This time, Rob Whiteman, Managing Director of the Local Government Group, and Maggie Rae, Director of Public Health for NHS Wiltshire and Wiltshire Council took to the stage to ask: Will Local Government improve Public Health? As ever with the Ethics Committee a small but informed audience had an awful lot to say, finally concluding that the Public Health industry needs to roll up its sleeves and get to work on some rather hefty tasks, including embracing the use of social media and reforming the role of public health observatories.

And so, to The Kings Fund for the launch of Understanding New Labour’s market reforms of the English NHS, edited by Nicholas Mays, Anna Dixon and Lorelei Jones. The audience was distinctly A-list (well, A-list for a healthcare seminar) with many people in attendance who had influenced the reforms including: former Secretary of State Patricia Hewitt, former Tony Blair policy adviser, David Bennett (now CEO of Monitor) and former Chief of Star Ratings, Professor Gwyn Bevan. By close of play there was a distinct feeling that the aims of the coalition government and those of New Labour a decade ago are perhaps not quite as dissimilar as party politics would have us believe.

After all that, we felt we’d earned a few evenings basking in the unseasonable October sunshine rather than intellectual-bashing at health policy seminars.

So, what have we learnt this month?

1. Healthcare is still an area that simulates discussion, debate and interest

2. There is no consensus either for or against the current reforms but many interested parties with important contributions to the proceedings

3. Seminars need modernising – get your audiences tweeting and hashtagging

If you are hosting or attending health seminars in the autumn let the ZPB team know by tweeting us @zpbltd