The NHS is at a crossroads, on a precarious path to a future yet unknown

Niall Dickson CBE, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, gives NHE readers an exclusive preview of what to expect at this year’s edition of Confed18 – where high-profile speakers and deep-dive workshops and seminars will ensure delegates leave the conference brimming with inspiration and new ideas.

It is hard to think of another period of such uncertainty in the history of the NHS, with unprecedented workforce and funding challenges, and unprecedented levels of demand. And alongside this, Brexit, the outcome of which is also uncertain in spite of soothsayers on either side claiming to know what the future will bring.  

We do know the next decade will require some fundamental changes in our delivery systems. The creation of new integrated models of care will move us further away from the 2012 Act and arguably a delivery model which has prevailed in various forms since 1948. The risks are apparent, principal among them operational pressures that threaten to overwhelm strategic aspirations.

Charting a course over the next few years will require different ways of working, which challenge traditional mindsets and the vested interests which have driven so much in the NHS over the years.  The question is whether commissioners and providers, NHS and local government, independent and voluntary sectors, primary, secondary and community care can operate together to develop new pathways and interventions which meet patient rather than system or organisational need.  

That is the central question facing us all now, and it is one we will address at Confed18, the NHS Confederation’s annual conference and exhibition on 13 and 14 June. Our ambition is to bring together the whole system to explore practical ways forward, to exchange audacious ideas and to create the vision that will enable NHS to thrive, not just survive, over the next 10 to 15 years.

Themed ‘Celebrating the past, shaping the future,’ the conference will feature masterclasses, workshops and talks intended to equip senior leaders with the tools to confront today’s challenges, as well as those of tomorrow. Hard-hitting sessions will question narratives on mental health and regulation. And speakers from across the UK, and beyond, will share their experiences, tools and solutions on digital, transformation, integration, efficiency and productivity, workforce, and leadership.

Our hope is that everyone leaves with at least one new idea that will save them money, drive quality or both.

Yet those who run the service will only be able to go so far without support from the political class. It is therefore encouraging that we are now seeing signs of movement on the most pressing domestic issues: funding, workforce and social care. With keynote addresses from the secretary of state, Jeremy Hunt MP and his shadow Jon Ashworth MP, there must at least be the hope of new thinking and a new narrative on health and social care.

Our NHS 70th Birthday Zone will host a programme on preserving the NHS’s heritage, and our NHS 7Tea party will gather the service’s oldest and newest staff members. Main stage sessions featuring former health secretaries and NHS employees will look back at the NHS of yesteryear.

Three other exhibition zones will spotlight innovation, developments in mental health and public health, and a fourth will provide a platform to debate the latest thorny issues.

With the NHS at this critical juncture, at the intersection between yesterday and today, we aim to bring the system together to secure a brighter future.


Confed18 takes place in Manchester on 13 and 14 June. To find out more, visit:


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Councillors fear identity crisis following CCG merger

22/06/2018Councillors fear identity crisis following CCG merger

Members of one of Kent’s leading councils have voiced their concerns against an upcoming merger between CCGs in the area. Cllr Wendy P... more >
Top NHS England boss to leave the organisation

22/06/2018Top NHS England boss to leave the organisation

NHS England’s chief financial officer will leave the post after 11 years. Paul Baumann CBE, who joined NHS London in 2007, and took up... more >
Most urgent primary care services ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’

22/06/2018Most urgent primary care services ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’

Over eight in 10 primary care services are providing good care, despite mounting work force and commissioning pressures, the CQC has said. A... more >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

The impact of NICE on cardiovascular disease prevention

06/06/2018The impact of NICE on cardiovascular disease prevention

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director Health and Social Care at NICE, looks into what can be done to decrease cardiovascular disease nationally and how to prevent missed opportunities in the future. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for just over a quarter of deaths and affects around 7 million people in the UK. Risk factors for CVD include smoking, obesity, mental illness, physical inactivity, and long-term fa... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >


Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >
Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >
Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

02/10/2017Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

NHE interviews Gillian Fox, head of eProcurement (Scan4Safety) programme at NHS Supply Chain. How has the Scan4Safety initiative evolved sin... more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

health service focus

Isosec launches first Virtual Smartcard to revolutionise NHS authentication

12/02/2018Isosec launches first Virtual Smartcard to revolutionise NHS authentication

ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE A new virtual smartc... more >
Health creation is here to stay

09/02/2018Health creation is here to stay

NHE’s Sacha Rowlands speaks to Michael ... more >