A new policy forum launched by the NHS Confederation will create a new voice for the NHS and put dignity in care for older people higher up the agenda, says Niall Smith
A new style of leadership is needed in the NHS in order to deliver change and meet the scale of the challenge of reform. If the NHS wants to shape policy, it has to be more assertive now than it has been in the past.
With all this in mind, the NHS Confederation has launched a new policy forum made up of NHS leaders from across the system. The aim is to put its members at the centre of our work and provide a strong platform for NHS leaders to set the agenda. The forum will be led by our chair, Sir Keith Pearson, and it has already set out some of the areas that it wants us to work on.
Two of these, the scale of the funding challenge the NHS faces and the need to tackle dignity in care are already key strands of our work.
We have also set up a commission with the Local Government Association and Age UK to look at improving dignity in care for older people. Its report and recommendations will be published in draft later this month. We believe it is absolutely vital for the NHS to own this problem, take responsibility for improving dignity and come up with solutions that will work on the ground. Services will need to change radically.
We will also be advocating for policy makers to see reform as a 10 or 15-year process, not one that lasts an electoral cycle. Most other countries see it this way and we should too. It is the only way we will address the long-term challenges the health service faces.
The confederation already has an excellent reputation of policy analysis and thought leadership that we can build on and the idea is to make the "what" and "why" of policy development much more closely linked to the "how" of implementation.
We also want to benefit from advice from other partner organisations and the forum will work with others in local government and clinical and patient groups. Each member of the policy forum is nominated by a network or partner that speaks for a particular part of the health or social care system, such as the Foundation Trust Network and NHS Alliance.
The end result should be a more assertive confederation that its members genuinely recognise as their own. We are not a managers trade union but the voice of the NHS and we can speak from a position of real authority based on the knowledge and experience of NHS leaders.
Health services are facing at least a decade of funding austerity, starting with a £20bn efficiency challenge no health service has met before and the largest ever reorganisation in NHS history. We will have to change the way services are delivered in order to meet this challenge.
We will also have to address significant problems, highlighted in a number of watershed reports, concerning the basics of care and maintaining the dignity of patients.
A new style of leadership will be needed in the NHS to deliver change and meet these challenges. With more integrated working across organisations reflecting new ways of delivering services we will need less command and control and more local empowerment.
The forum puts members at the heart of the NHS Confederation so that our membership determines what we say and do, ensuring that our policy and influencing work is grounded in the views and opinions of NHS organisations.