When I listened to some of the hugely innovative work that was honoured in the recent NHS Wales Awards, it struck me that out of austerity can come opportunity.
I know that these are tough financial times for the NHS, with savings expected year on year, but it does make us examine what we are doing more closely and at all levels.
This is a time to work smarter and to make the best use of the resources we do have to deliver the best possible care to patients wherever they are in Wales.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or be anything complicated to deliver healthcare improvements that can make a big impact.
Take Hywel Dda Health Board’s winning entry in the Citizens at the Centre of Service Re-Design and Delivery category.
This was a simple but effective project to improve signs and directions for patients, particularly those with learning disabilities, in Withybush Hospital. Introducing colour zones and symbols has increased patient satisfaction so much so that the system is being rolled out to all of its hospitals.
And what about changes that can save the NHS money in the long term such as early interventions for patients or the development of more effective and efficient services?
Velindre Cancer Centre won the Improving Patient Safety award for its work to recognise signs of a deteriorating patient, and respond sooner. These improvements have reduced the number of unnecessary transfers to critical care units and care for patients has improved.
And at ABM University Health Board, the development of night time renal dialysis at home has dramatically improved the quality of life for its kidney patients.
A patient told me at the Awards told me that the new service has changed her life and that of her family too. Not having to travel to hospital for dialysis three times a week has meant she can look after her 3 year old son, her partner can do more work and she can enrol on college course.
It’s humbling to see that even faced with financial constraints, NHS Wales staff are continually digging deep to come up with creative ways of improving care for patients and working on ways to improve the health of the population more generally.
It certainly highlights reasons for optimism and confidence as the NHS is alive and well, 65 years after its inception – and that’s something we can all celebrate.
Helen Birtwhistle is the Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation