Workforce and Training

27.06.19

Health, social care and digitalising the NHS: Health Plus Care 2019 review

It’s only been a year since the last Health Plus Care, the largest annual integrated healthcare event in the UK, but in London this week it was clear just how much had changed over the last 12 months.

As thousands descended on the ExCel London conference centre, there were plenty of old and welcome faces but some new names cropped up too, such as NHSX and their exciting digital vision.

The £20.5bn NHS Long-Term Plan rightfully took centre stage following its full launch at the start of this year, and so did the push towards integrated and system working. And technology once again captured the imagination. Just think, this time last year Jeremy Hunt was still our health secretary.

This year’s Health Plus Care hosted four simultaneous on-site events covering every corner of health and social care.

The Digital Healthcare Show, Home Care Show, Infection Prevention Control and Patient Safety Show, and, of course, the HealthCare Show all had something different to offer, and perhaps the most exciting was the digital show.

With the health secretary Matt Hancock concentrated on bringing the NHS back into the 21st Century, it’s an exciting time for technological innovation. At Health Plus Care we heard about everything from robotic seals to everyday adaptions like wearable technology and prescribing Alexa’s to robotic seals -a healthy mix of mainstream tech and more bespoke solutions.

NHSX made a strong appearance, the new joint unit created just a few months ago aiming to bring together all the current and previous organisations tasked with digitalising the NHS. Simon Eccles, the chief clinical information officer of the new organisation, called it “a new vision of care, transformed by technology.”

Eccles, alongside chief digital officer Tara Donnelly and a number of other NHSX representatives, led talks which set out the unit’s plans for the not-so-distant future. Giving citizens easy access to information and control of their own health is a priority, as is reducing the “ridiculous” burden placed on staff by outdated and unconnected systems.

The NHS App is also changing, moving away from one app to organise the whole health service to a number of targeted apps and software.

One of the most successful aspects of Health Plus Care is the mixture and collaboration between health and social care organisations, and several speakers remarked on a noticeable change in the delivery of integrated healthcare, with the shift becoming more systematic.

Speaking at Confed19 last week, Simon Stevens also announced that another three areas have been designated as integrated care systems (ICS) and joined the programme.

READ MORE: SIX things we learned from day one at Confed19

Caroline Dinenage, secretary of state for health, was one of those celebrating the increasing popularity of the ICSs, with 21 million people now covered by the innovative systems. The MP said the point was to bring together local health and social care organisations to find pragmatic and personalised ways of delivering what’s being called triple integration.

Primary and specialist care, physical and mental health and social care all need to be working together, and Dinenage said efforts were being made to accelerate growth, with the government aiming to cover the whole UK by April 2021.

The minister even called integration “the great health project for this government,” and there were plenty of great case studies at the event, from NHS South Tyneside CCG to Wigan Council.

Caroline Dinenage also brought up the “elephant in the room,” the heavily-delayed adult social care green paper. First planned for April and then put back until May to avoid the party politics of the local election campaign, the paper now doesn’t likely until the autumn.

The green paper has not been parked, said Dinenage, with the extra time being used to conduct further research and improve the plan. But she acknowledged the frustrations in delivering much-needed changes to help those most needing in society.

Mental health was large part of this conversation, with schemes mentioned such as the Men’s Sheds, and this also featured in the Residential and Home Care Show. Personal Health Budgets are another aspect of care which is expected to grow, as personalised care becomes the priority, as stated by NHS England and Improvement’s James Sanderson.

The two new stages, the Finance, Efficiency and Procurement Theatre and the ICS Hub, offered plenty of interesting talkers such Saffron Cordery of NHS Providers on how to rebalance the provider sector back in balance.

With over 100 exhibitors and 6,000 delegates, Health Plus Care was once again a great chance to mix with the health and social care sectors and meet trusts, CCGs, councils and suppliers.

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