OVID Health: NHS Confed Conference 2019

OVID Health: NHS Confed Conference 2019


This week OVID attended Confed19, the largest NHS conference in the country. The event brought together over 2,000 senior NHS leaders, patients, healthcare professionals, academics, policy-makers, politicians and members of the NHS Confederation. Key announcements from the conference included the roll-out of stroke teams and fast-tracking cancer medicines from NHS England. Simon Stevens also made clear that acute trusts will need to increase their bed base over the next five years to reverse the trend of bed space decreases.

The biggest theme of the conference was “it’s the workforce, stupid” (to paraphrase a Bill Clinton campaign slogan). Whether it was the current 40,000 nursing vacancies, the challenge of Brexit, or the need for more diverse senior leaders – tackling the people ‘problem’ is at the fore of all NHS leaders’ minds right now.



  • If current trends continue in five years there are expected to be 70,000 nursing vacancies – many focused in the mental health and community sectors.
  • 1 in 50 people watching the broadcast news at 6pm or 10pm are people who work in the NHS.
  • The medicines team at NHS England already record 50-100 medicines shortages at any one time due to issues such as quality. This number is expected to dramatically increase in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • Delegates sent a very clear message to the next Prime Minister about the social care crisis – with 93% of those asked saying the sector’s reform is critical to the success of the wider NHS.




  • In a session on Brexit, NHS England’s Professor Keith Willett (EU Exit Strategic Commander) said his greatest concern is around the social care workforce. He added that although Agenda for Change protects this group of workers to a certain extent, he thinks there is a real risk with the care workforce in small to medium-sized businesses in London and the South; particularly if Sterling is devalued in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The projected shortfall (in the event of no deal) in the social care workforce is just short of 100,000.
  • Prof Willett said most NHS organisations are currently scoring themselves as ‘Amber’ in terms of Brexit preparedness and that next month it is likely the NHS will be placed back on alert ahead of a potential no-deal scenario.
  • Delegates also discussed the crucial role community pharmacists will play in medicine stocks post-Brexit. Communications from NHS England are centred around ‘inflating’ the risk of stockpiling to healthcare professionals, versus reassuring the public they don’t have to stockpile or take alternate doses.

Social Care

  • Baroness Dido Harding, chair of NHS Improvement, said it was ‘self evident’ that we need to get more money into social care, and that the solutions will not be just structural. This is ahead of the Lords Economic Affairs select committee (on which she sits) publishing their enquiry into social care funding in the coming week/s.
  • The outgoing CEO of NHS Improvement, Ian Dalton, told delegates that social care is ‘obviously really important’ and that ‘the day to day situation is increasingly positive, but there is a need for a social care settlement that we can build and plan upon and Government ultimately has to grasp those issues’. He added he was ‘of course impatient’ about the delayed Green Paper publication.
  • In the closing session of the conference, 2% of delegates in the Main Hall felt it likely the Government would deliver a settlement for social care by May 2022.


Pharmaceutical Industry 

  • A joint report launch with the ABPI and the NHS Confederation saw the life sciences industry and the NHS discuss how to foster cross-sector collaboration. Speakers at this launch event included Erik Nordkamp of Pfizer’s Upjohn division and Louise Houson of MSD.
  • Erik Nordkamp made clear the expanded scope of the Accelerated Access Collaborative is vitally important as it is now a vehicle that allows us to collaborate on projects, realise them ahead of time, and identify where the barriers are to making NHS projects happen.
  • Louise Houson said trust in pharma is a very real issue, which is why communications, strong leadership from the top and local change agents are so important in terms of saying what is needed and in sharing successes. 



Communications is increasingly emerging as a strategic priority for healthcare organisations wanting to successfully deliver on priorities such as the workforce, integrated care and the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP). But good communications only have an impact if trust already exists between stakeholders – which is why the ABPI and Confederation’s joint report is to be welcomed.

The same applies to independent suppliers and providers working alongside NHS customers. For example, Integrated Care Systems and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are about to reveal how they plan to implement the LTP locally – which will enable pharma and independent providers to understand what care will be needed for different patient populations. This will help those organisations to think about how they plan to fund and capitalise on these local plans. Bringing the public with the NHS and other partners on this journey will be vital if they are to buy into the vision on offer.