As the dust settles on the coalition government’s health reforms, the NHS is again braced for change.
The NHS Five Year Forward View, launched in October 2014, sets out the next challenges for the health system that must be addressed to improve care. I believe the report, a product of collaboration between several NHS bodies, shows understanding of the issues facing health teams and organisations. But it is nonetheless uncompromising in how it sets out the steps that we need to take.
It demands that the NHS embraces different ways of working; to harness skills and resources better in meeting the needs of the population. It emphasises the power of devolution and localism, married to a strong national mandate for change.
I found it refreshingly straightforward and direct. Having looked at healthcare from the perspective of a patient and a health professional, I know this is the right approach.
But what are the conditions that can promote this vision? Strong professional relationships, inspiring and courageous leadership and clinical excellence all have a part to play. But it is important to see the world through the patient’s eyes and adapt pathways to suit how patients use them, beyond organisational boundaries.
This theme has been thrown into sharp relief in my own life.
I have recently needed assessment and care in a variety of settings. While I received swift care in a specialised local unit, I know that others experience a more complicated and worrying time. Many patients have to navigate between their general practice, local hospital and regional specialist centre. They can face confusing administration, long waits in-between appointments and slow feedback.
There is a clear need for a whole-system, collaborative approach if we are to deliver excellent care locally.
The importance of this vision was clearly demonstrated during the recent antimicrobial resistance summit, hosted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society at its London headquarters on 6 November 2014. Attending the event, I learnt that we still have much to do to ensure the skills and expertise of community pharmacists can work in unison with those of specialist hospital pharmacists and other health professionals. This will be essential to improve our preservation of antibiotics and do more to prevent and control infection.
Bringing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others together at the summit was a powerful example of how collaborative working can shine a light on the bigger picture. It cultivates different perspectives on key issues, and has more impact because of that insight.
We all need to think about every facet of healthcare — whole systems, populations and the patient journey — if we are to change it for the better.