Distilled Post sat down with Professor Kiran Patel to discuss solutions to some of the most pressing issues the NHS is confronting this winter.

Meet Health Events and Proud2bOps are joining forces to deliver the NHS Executive Strategy Summit on the 7th of November in London. Following straight on from the NHS’s first official day of winter, 1st November, the Summit represents a vital opportunity for operational leaders from across the Health Service to make connections and share knowledge and experiences in a supportive environment. In doing so, the Summit will direct leaders to collaborative solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing the NHS, including patient flow, workforce challenges, digital strategies and winter resilience.

As we focus on operational leaders in the buildup to the event, Distilled Post recently sat down with Professor Kiran Patel. Kiran spent 6 years as Medical Director for NHS England (West Midlands), and since 2019 has been a Chief Medical Officer, Deputy CEO and Consultant cardiologist at University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire. Internationally, Kiran has lectured extensively and advised the Thai and Indonesian governments on health system strengthening. 

Winter pressures are looming large from an operational standpoint, with demand for services set to increase with the onset of colder weather. Kiran articulated what resilience should look like, in the face of these pressures: “It’s being able to cope with the multiple challenges that are thrown upon us”. Indeed, following a summer of disruption stemming from strikes across the workforce, Kiran believes that “this winter, we have many mare challenges than usual, to take into context the industrial action we’ve seen”. 

And how do we meet these challenges, including improving patient flow sustainably? Kiran observed that “we tend to think having meetings is the answer… but I think we need to have better structural design, better collaboration, better peer review”. The prospect of integrated, joined-up care is a much-touted goal by operational leaders across the NHS, and Kiran is an ardent advocate: “we need better integration to make sure we see the world from each other's eyes, so that we can appreciate the challenges across primary care, secondary care, public health and social care. I think we need much more integrated visioning, instead of meetings”. 

The challenge, of course, is how that integrative visioning is achieved. The implementation of digital solutions is a promising avenue, but Kiran believes it is still a matter of potential: “I don’t think anybody’s cracked it yet… But the potential  “is more integrated digital sharing, rather than using digital for escalation”. He referenced his site management board at the hospital, which contains a ‘rich data set’ containing information on bed state and patient flow. However, he has no indication of real-time data coming from primary or social care, and doubts that they in turn have access to his data-sets. The consequences of this lack of integration? “We end up being reactive rather than responsive… And we could become responsive with good digital sharing”. 

While he acknowledges that integrative sharing requires a balance - “you clearly want local autonomy with commonality in there as well” - he’s adamant that sharing information across a wide range of stakeholders is key to providing joined-up care, improving flow and alleviating some of the pressures facing the NHS this winter. These issues and more will be brought to the table at the NHS Executive Strategy Summit. Kiran sees clearly the benefits of bringing operational leaders together in this way: “the value is to share solutions and to share challenges. I think if you can share challenges, you can generate collective solutions”. 

The NHS Executive Strategy Summit is on the 7th of November in London, organised by Meet Health Events and Proud2bOps.

To learn more about the event, visit: https://www.meethealthevents.com/nhs-executive-strategy-summit-ness-2023

To learn more about Proud2bOps, visit: https://www.proud2bops.org