The theme of 'together' at NHS Providers' annual conference and exhibition 2021

Adam Brimelow profile picture

15 December 2021

Adam Brimelow
Director of Communications

This year the theme of the NHS Providers annual conference and exhibition was 'together', with our programme focused on the work trusts are doing to deliver integration. We explored how we can embrace new opportunities across health and care, creating a sustainable NHS fit for the 21st century and how we can respond collaboratively to address health inequalities. An incredible 600 people joined us virtually each day, after a late change was made to switch to a virtual approach due to the operational pressure trusts are under.

Chris Hopson, our chief executive, and Saffron Cordery, our deputy chief executive, kicked off the conference, in a lively and wide-ranging discussion with Samira Ahmed, our conference chair. They reflected on the last 20 months, discussing the extraordinary changes the NHS has made to adapt to the pandemic, while recognising the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on health inequalities.

They also discussed current pressures facing the NHS, drawing on survey findings from our State of the Provider Sector report. The conversation also covered the importance of prioritising mental health services, the NHS funding settlement, and the unsustainable nature of the workforce model.

During their separate keynote speeches, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England and NHS Improvement, and health and social care secretary Sajid Javid, set out their priorities.

Adam Brimelow    Director of Communications

During their separate keynote speeches, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England and NHS Improvement, and health and social care secretary Sajid Javid, set out their priorities. Both included the importance of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and transformation of the NHS to implement long-term planning and policies.

Amanda also highlighted the interdependence of social care and the NHS, and she talked about the Health and Care Bill as an important facilitator in developing relationships underpinning integrated care systems (ICSs). Sajid also highlighted recent reforms to tackle health disparities and he acknowledged the importance of ensuring integrated care systems had appropriate funding and support.

The theme of investing for transformation was picked up in another plenary, with Anita Charlesworth, director of research and REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, sharing recent findings on why long term investment is needed for a stronger workforce within the NHS, while Prerana Issar, chief people officer at NHS England and NHS Improvement, went on to explore how the NHS is the first healthcare service in the world to commit to a net zero impact, and Tim Ferris, director of transformation, highlighted the importance of developing digital technology.

Rachel Stancliffe, founder and director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, explained how she had worked to promote sustainability within the workplace through educational courses, culture changes and focusing on staff.

Investing in the workforce was another key theme.

Adam Brimelow    Director of Communications

Investing in the workforce was another key theme. Tinaye Mapako, FY1 and junior doctors committee representative, outlined the importance of implementing more flexibility for staff, and the need for attractive, modern working conditions, while Saffron Cordery stated that there needed to be more focus on managing burnout and expressed frustrations felt by many over ongoing discrimination.

Hattie Llewelyn-Davies, chair at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and member of the Disabled NHS Directors Network, also reflected on the challenges NHS staff with disabilities can face, while Navina Evans, chief executive at Health Education England, explored the importance of generalist skills in education and training for the workforce.

In a plenary on levelling up through partnership and collaboration, Dr Owen Williams highlighted work he had participated in to alleviate health inequalities and improve health equity. Sharing her views on how ICSs can help level up services, Patricia Miller, chief executive of Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, discussed how their delivery can produce positive results.

The panel also talked about the NHS' wider socio-economic goals, with Matthew Taylor, chief executive of NHS Confederation, emphasising their importance as part of the levelling up agenda. Toby Lewis, senior fellow at the King's Fund, also shared the 'foundational logic' behind creating affordable housing ahead of other health inequalities.

On a similar theme, Dr Bola Owolabi, director of health inequalities at NHS England and NHS Improvement, highlighted the interdependence between health and social care and emphasised that regardless of what type of care is being accessed, it was incumbent upon leaders to restore services inclusively.

In the same session, Matthew Winn, director of community health at NHS England and NHS Improvement, discussed the importance of considering how the pandemic impacted all facets of the population and all segments of the NHS, while Clenton Farquharson, chair at Think Local Act Personal partnership board, said leaders needed to move away from seeing health inequality in silos and through a lens of just one protected characteristic.

Separately, author, racial equity consultant and activist Sophie Williams explained the difference between anti-racism and not being racist.

Adam Brimelow    Director of Communications

Separately, author, racial equity consultant and activist Sophie Williams explained the difference between anti-racism and not being racist. Sharing insight into the realities of 'glass ceilings', Sophie discussed how women's opportunities are limited and described the difficulty of breaking through structural barriers, while Dr Megan Reitz, professor of leadership and dialogue at Ashridge Executive Education, explored the behaviours and communicative habits of leaders, which can have huge impacts and consequences on their teams' confidence to speak up.

Alongside the conference, we published a survey report which found that trusts are exploring all avenues to support patients and staff as the NHS heads into what trust leaders believe will be the "most difficult winter in the history of the health service". We also published a report which shows how trusts are adapting and innovating to support staff in the face of severe workforce pressures.

This blog was first published by Public Sector Focus.

About the author

Adam Brimelow profile picture

Adam Brimelow
Director of Communications

Adam Brimelow is NHS Providers’ director of communications. Prior to joining as head of news in 2016 he was a BBC health correspondent for 14 years, working across a range of outlets including Today and World at One on radio 4, TV news bulletins and online. Previously Adam also worked for BBC World Service and in local radio, based in Birmingham and Manchester. Read more