Confed17: Day two as it happened

Niall Dickson and Jeremy Hunt

On our second and final day at Confed17 saw the theme of workforce, and retention in particular, feature strongly across the sessions.

‘Retention retention retention’

After a 7.30 start for our fringe and breakout sessions, Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, took to the stage at 10.45am to set out his belief that the NHS should be flexible and innovative in developing the NHS workforce. 

Retention is his watchword because, although more people than ever want to go into nursing and medical training, the number of nurses leaving the NHS due to inflexibility far outweigh those coming in. Looking after the staff we already have will secure the workforce of the future.

There are short, medium and long-term solutions we can take to tackle this challenge, he said, and we must also address the emerging impact of staff wanting to work fewer hours to achieve a better work-life balance. 

Demanding questions followed from delegates, including a challenge on cuts to CPD funding that caused ripples throughout the audience. 

See how Ian responded, and watch his speech in full, on our watch again page

Getting the most from workforce

His address was followed by a candid session exploring the opportunities and challenges digital technology presents to improve workforce productivity.

Touching on issues including inefficiencies, workforce deployment, investment and cyber security, the session drew consensus on the potential gains of harnessing digital technology – if done right.

Watch the session, which featured NHS Digital's Beverly Bryant, Allocate Software's Prof Martin Elliot and East Cheshire NHS Trust Dr Darren Kilroy.

‘Nimble, smart and determined’

The newly reappointed health secretary suggested that cross-party work would be needed to ensure the success of STPs, post-Brexit, and that the government is committed to their delivery. In his first address following the general election, and his fourth appearance at our conference, Mr Hunt outlined the government’s immediate and longer term priorities for health and social care. 

Echoing Ian Cumming’s call for a focus on the existing workforce, he said staff retention was one of the government’s immediate priorities, alongside the status of EU nationals, workforce shortages and mental health support. Longer term priorities will focus on performance, financial balance, transforming mental health and safety improvements.

To achieve these priorities, he said the government must be ‘nimble, smart and determined.’

Questions followed on pay restraint, whistleblowing, regulation and more, from an audience eager to challenge the health secretary on issues with practical and emotional importance to them.

Watch Jeremy Hunt’s speech and audience Q&A

'Turning a corner'

Simon Stevens used his main stage address to discuss the NHS' 'overriding priorities' over the next 12 to 14 months, which includes meeting the A&E target and 'turning a corner' on investment in primary care.

Addressing leaders for the first time following the general election, he mirrored the tone of Jim Mackey's Confed17 speech, praising leaders for their hard work and progress, but being frank that tough times still lie ahead.

View his keynote address for further details on NHS priorities for 2017/18.

‘Rarely a perfect answer’

“What Wales is doing today, the world will be doing tomorrow,” so said Vaughan Gething AM, quoting the United Nation’s view on its health and care services.

The Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport was at Confed17 to share Wales’ devolved approach to health and social care, to highlight commonalities with England and to call for greater collaboration to ensure a stable NHS workforce for the UK.

Devolution has allowed more appropriate choices for our own needs and we’ll explore what more we can do, he said. Devolution is a growing feature of UK and involves the language of choices, he said. And choices made locally can be more appropriate to local circumstances.

However, Wales hasn’t always made the right choices, he confessed. “There’s rarely a perfect answer, and I haven’t always made a perfect decision, but it’s not always right or wrong, it’s about different answers,” said Mr Gething.

After outlining Wales’ successes he emphasised the importance of sharing learning between Wales and England, and called for a different approach from Westminster to avoid unacceptable outcomes in health and care across the UK. He signed off with a call to work together to create better services for staff to work within, and for the public to take part in and receive. 

Watch Vaughan’s speech in full

Reflections on a world-leading health service

Prof Sir Bruce Keogh wrapped up day two at Confed17 in perfect style, providing his observations on the NHS and reflections on his time the national medical director.

Charting the many, many achievements of the NHS since its inception, he remarked that good things can be borne out of significant hardship.

Celebrating the NHS, he also identified areas for improvement. In the face of relentless pressures, "there is a risk that we have shifted to a focus on risk aversion and blame."

He also called for more to be done to support senior leaders, raising concerns over the 'inadequate' support they receive. "Why is it that the life expectancy of chief executives in the acute sector is two and a half years," he asked.

Referring to the NHS' response to recent terrorist attacks, he said that of the 121 patients admitted to hospital, there were no deaths, testament to the hard work and planning of emergency services and the benefits of major trauma networks.

"This is the NHS at its best when you need it."

View his full speech, which closed our final day in Liverpool.

Take a look at our Twitter highlights from day two.

Thank you, see you next year!

Thank you to all of our sponsors for their support of this year's event. We look forward to seeing you and all our delegates again next year in Manchester, for Confed18.


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