Jul 152014

Helen Birtwhistle

I was privileged to once again be a judge at the recent NHS Wales Awards and what struck me was just how much of the innovative work being honoured had co-production and prudent healthcare at its core.

We know financial pressures mean working in healthcare is often a tough place to be but this is a time to work smarter and make the best use of resources to deliver quality, safe patient care across Wales.

In our recent discussion paper From Rhetoric to Reality – NHS Wales in 10 years’ time, the Welsh NHS Confederation challenged NHS Wales to think about how it could ensure it was fit for the future.

As we enter the 67th year of the health service, we know we need to design a better service, in conjunction with partners, other public services and the voluntary sector, that meets the challenges of today.

And whilst judging and then listening to the innovative work being honoured at the NHS Wales Awards, it was noticeable just how many of the entries correlate with some of the suggestions raised in the paper.

We know that by working together we can provide better, more responsive services and compassionate care. Indeed the number of joint entries from organisations reflected just how well this is working.

I was also incredibly impressed by the commitment of staff to work alongside patients and citizens to drive changes and improvements that really meet the needs of those using the service.

For example, the creation of the Care Home Ask and Talk (CHAat) service, by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, that has retired NHS professionals supporting older people in care homes was truly inspirational.

This really enabled users to be fully involved in the design of services to ensure it meets their needs and improves the way they live their lives.

What the Awards show clearly is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or be anything complicated to deliver healthcare improvements that can make a big impact.

In many cases, they actually bring savings because interventions are made earlier, and services are more effective and efficient.

And what I liked about so many of the Award entries, was that it shows that even simple small changes are actually innovation – and every bit of innovation leads to improvements in the care being delivered across Wales.

And that is something we can all celebrate.

Helen Birtwhistle is the Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation

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