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How can the NHS build effective relationships with partners?

As part of our ongoing partnership with the Guardian, we supported an event in London to discuss the role of partnerships in helping the NHS deliver excellent healthcare in the face of intense budgetary pressures.

Five experts discussed their views on collaboration in the NHS, as well as with organisations in other sectors. There was agreement across the whole panel that more joined-up working and a greater role for partnerships is going to be essential to delivering effective healthcare in the years ahead.

Dr Mahiben Maruthappu, a practicing doctor, senior fellow to the CEO of NHS England and advisor on its innovation, technology and prevention portfolio, said: “Partnership is critical for a sustainable health service and, in this day and age, there are unrivalled opportunities made by technology and innovation.

“We’ve seen how some of these opportunities can be used in other sectors. Now it’s time to use them in healthcare to support partnership from the front line – patients and healthcare professionals, nurses, doctors and managers – but also to include policymakers, regional managers, leaders across the charitable and voluntary sectors all together, centering around a combined vision.

“That is the only way that we will have a sustainable health and care system in this country.”

Closer working between healthcare organisations and other sectors including social care and housing was a key theme in the debate. For example, Grainne Siggins, policy lead at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) and director of adult social services for the London borough of Newham, emphasised the importance of clinicians being involved in social care. She said: “It’s our job to support GPs so we can support people coming into the system.”

In the next 10 years, the way people access and use healthcare will change fundamentally

Dr John Patterson, a GP and clinical director of Hope Citadel Healthcare, agreed that improving public health means a joined-up approach not only between healthcare organisations, but across the whole of society. He said: “The context is that we’re the generation that know more about how to be healthy and how to keep healthy than any other generation. It’s not just about medicine, it’s about housing, employment, it’s about having hobbies and friendships, working against isolation.

“Yet, the health budget is shrinking all the time, so the only way we’re going to facilitate these things is through partnership.”

This view was echoed by Anu Singh, director of patient and public participation at NHS England, who felt that the traditional models of healthcare haven’t met the needs of the community at large. She said: “We’re trying to work differently with localities because we know that if we don’t get housing right – if we don’t have people helping with social isolation – this will add to the pressure on care and things will continue to spiral out of control.”

The role of technology

We partnered with the Guardian to host an event discussing the role partnerships have in helping the NHS deliver excellent care in the wake of budget cuts

David Hare, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network, a trade association that represents a wide range of independent-sector providers of NHS services, said: “Technology is going to play a hugely important role in the future of health and care. In the next 10 years, the way people access and use healthcare will change fundamentally and technology – if used properly and as a force for good – will be a major driver.”

But Dr John Patterson sounded a note of caution on the way in which technology is adopted in the health service. He added: “I think technology is an enabler, but we are people fixing people. My concern is that in the future, the haves and have-nots aren’t money or technology but personal contact.

“If we’re going to see people healed, people kept well, we have to make sure that technology plays its part, but we don’t lose the lived experience of our patients and the lived experience of some of our best workers.”

However, a clear message emerged from the debate that technological innovation promises to revolutionise healthcare in the years ahead. This was summarised by Dr Mahiben Maruthappu: “Technology is providing us with tremendous opportunities that will transform the face of healthcare as we know it. There are broadly categories - Genomics and personalised medicine, data and digital and hardware and wearables.

“When we put the three of these together in a health system that can embrace these opportunities, we are going to see unrivalled changes and transformation in the way we deliver care and the quality of service that our patients can enjoy.”

Read more about technology in healthcare at brother.co.uk

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