About the Forum

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That health and social care is facing significant challenges in the coming years is unquestionable, so we cannot afford to stand still. 'Seize the Moment - Deliver the Future' is the theme for the Hospital Caterers Association 2017 Leadership & Development Forum, which is being hosted by the Northern Ireland Branch of the HCA on April 6 - 7, 2017 at the Europa Hotel in Belfast .

Northern Ireland has a population of approximately 1.8 million people, with two-thirds of these located around the capital city in the Greater Belfast area. Northern Ireland is one of the most deprived regions of the United Kingdom, with relatively high levels of unemployment. It has the lowest wages and one of the lowest labour productivity rates, and it is heavily reliant on the public sector, which is coupled with a weak private sector. Uniquely though, within the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has had a structurally integrated system of health and social care since 1973.

The NHS is expected to deliver efficiencies of 2 - 3% per year, effectively setting a 10 - 15% real terms cost reduction target for achievement by April 2021.

In June 2014 the Secretary of State for Health asked Lord Carter to look at what could be done to improve efficiency in hospitals in England and his interim report in June 2015 described the widely varying resource utilisation across the NHS. Whilst the NHS ranks as the best value healthcare system in the world , we know more could be done to improve quality and efficiency in our hospitals so they can meet this expectation. Lord Carter's final report, Productivity in NHS hospitals, sets out how non-specialist acute trusts can reduce unwarranted variation in productivity and efficiency to save the NHS £5 billion each year by 2020/21.

Faced with the challenge of finding productivity improvements, which for the NHS in England equates to £22 billion, all health systems throughout the 4 Nations need to focus on improving value for every pound that is spent, and it's here that Northern Ireland may have an advantage. Integration in health and social care is not a new concept. A wide range of initiatives and strategies have been introduced to facilitate integrated working, including joint working, partnerships, pooled budgets and structural integration.

There is widespread acceptance that an integrated system of health and social care can lead to better outcomes for service users, particularly for older people with complex needs. The 2009 Review of Public Administration (RPA) Act created a single large commissioning body, the Health and Social Care Board, and five large health and social care trusts (HSC trusts) responsible for the delivery of primary, secondary and community health care. Co-terminous with the new trusts were five local commissioning groups.

In 2011, Edwin Poots, Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland, launched a review of health and social care services, which was to undertake a strategic assessment of the system and bring forward recommendations for the future shape of services with an implementation plan. 'Transforming Your Care: A review of health and social care in Northern Ireland (the Compton Review)' was published in December 2011 (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety 2011). Described as the biggest shake-up of health care in the region’s history, it concluded that doing nothing was not an option, as the current and future pressures on the health and social care continue to build.

In April 2014 former Health Minister, Edwin Poots, commissioned former Chief Medical Officer of England, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, to advise on the improvement of governance arrangements across the HSC. Sir Liam called for an expert panel to be set up to help shape the future of health care in Northern Ireland. Donaldson identified that there were too many hospitals and expertise was too thinly spread, highlighting duplication, and called for a simpler, more efficient reporting system. Professor Rafael Bengoa, a world renowned expert on health reform and a former Basque country health Minister has been tasked with chairing the expert panel and leading the debate on how we can deliver a world class Health and Social Care system in Northern Ireland.

The UK population is increasing in size and getting older. More people are living with chronic conditions, unhealthy lifestyles are creating more demand for services and new developments in medical technologies and drugs are increasing demand and raising costs.

The biggest challenge for the NHS in 2016 is to deliver the changes needed to achieve the efficiency and productivity improvements required by 2020. As Liam Donaldson said, ' doing nothing was not an option.' Consequently, we cannot afford to stand still.

'Seize the Moment - Deliver the Future' is the theme for the Hospital Caterers Association 2017 Leadership & Development Forum. We have to transform our health and social care system to make sure we can continue to deliver world class services.

By next April, NI's expert panel should have reached the specific terms of reference for the optimal configuration of health and social care services in Northern Ireland.

Our ambition is to set out and explore the 'case for change'. The experts at our Forum will 'Seize the moment to Deliver the future' by suggesting how we can achieve a single service, with a 4 Nations' delivery vision by describing the approach taken to integrated care in Northern Ireland, looking at specific changes to Northern Ireland's health system.

Key topic areas are:  

  • Coordinated services and what this could mean
  • Quality Control - CQC/RQIA
  • Staff Health - a push for a healthier workforce
  • NHS/ Social Care integration - the Patient/Client experience - '10,000 voices', and
  • Sustainability - Agriculture/Farming and the NHS

So we invite you to 'Seize the Moment - Deliver the Future' at the HCA's 2017 L&D Forum.

It's the shape of things to come, and you can't afford to miss it...

Elsa Witherspoon
HCA 2017 National Secretary, HCA L&D Forum