Developing a new type of think tank

Source: NHE Sep/Oct 17

James Roach of the National Collaborative Group explains how the new and unique think tank is moving from rhetoric to action in order to help deliver a more sustainable NHS.

As an experienced healthcare director and someone who is well-versed in facing and managing the challenges that the NHS and the public sector generally throws at me, I, like my colleagues on the National Collaborative Group, recognise we are now facing a time like no other, and there is an urgent need to change the rhetoric. 

Through my company, Conclusio Limited, I have been fortunate in that I have not only built up a wide network of colleagues from my time working in the NHS, but I have also developed strong strategic alliances with a wide range of organisations who operate in the health and social care space – such as patient groups, political bodies, national trade groups, education, pharma and charities. It was during a side meeting at a Westminster Health Forum event that myself and colleagues clearly identified the need to change the point of the conversation and started to grow the concept of developing a new kind of ‘think tank’ in the health and care space.  

Out of the conversation grew the development of the National Collaborative Group, chaired by me, which includes the following groups as core members: two industry groups with national reach; four large pharma companies; a large national multiple pharmacy company; political advisors; a healthcare marketing company; a national trading company; a national data company; two large patient forums; community interest companies; an innovative social media company; a patient communications and media company; and training providers from other industries. 

As the breadth and scale of the membership demonstrates, there is a clear intention to move away from the traditional models of engagement and strategy and move towards something which represents the whole sector, the whole supply chain and has the ability, scope and motivation to change things.  

Bringing together unique partners into a forum with influence 

Our collaboration vision is to act as a unique forum which brings together the best of the sector, the industry and the community with the aim of demonstrating through action and example the change required to deliver a sustainable, outcomes-focused NHS. Through our membership, we will seek to influence on a national level, connect all the key players and break boundaries. We hope to do this by becoming a valued source of innovation and insight and be both challenging and disruptive in our approach. 

As the work we have carried out so far demonstrates, there is a real strength in collaboration. Our aim ultimately is to develop a dynamic alliance which is infrastructure light; nimble and needs-based; focused on what the evidence is saying; and flexible in its scale and influence, and not restricted politically or organisationally. 

The collaboration intends to develop action-based pilots which are whole-pathway, whole-system and aim to transition more patients to safe, independent living in their own community. Areas of focus include chronic disease management and multi-morbidities; the changing demographic; elevating the role of technology; prevention and early intervention; empowering individuals to improve their own health; and optimising medication and products. 

Moving forward, the group has met on three occasions and is establishing two actions-based regional pilots for CAHMS and the development of a whole-system frail elderly model, which will challenge traditional thinking and will launch in November. Our key themes – reputation, relevance, financial and legacy – underpin our approach to each of the pilots. 

I believe that whilst this is early days, we are developing a different kind of think thank which seeks to inspire, innovate and do things – and not just talk about them. Our core principle is to move away from the rhetoric and demonstrate through action what is possible. Key to this is developing a wider partnership across health and social care which has the same objective and the ability and mindset to change things. 

The challenges that the NHS and the public sector is facing are unprecedented, and we can’t continue to work in the same way, with the same old approach to partnership models. It’s time to think outside the box, and we hope that this collaboration is at least a necessary step in the right direction. We want to leave a legacy that is all about changing mindsets and developing end user relationships which endure.



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