Brexit and innovation in the NHS

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I've just returned from overseas to the political chaos around Brexit.  Whilst answers to questions like "Who's going to lead us through the exit negotiations?", "What on earth is happening to the Labour Party?" and "How did we end up here, without a plan?" are anybody's guess, one thing is certain: we have to pull together to make this work.  The NHS is facing unprecedented challenge, yet on the whole, it still delivers wonderful care day in, day out.  We all want that to continue, but if Brexit does bring a staffing crisis and more financial pressure, the efficiencies required of the NHS will not be delivered without strong partnerships with the independent sector. 

I was struck by Jim Easton's comment at the NHS Confederation session he chaired so well a couple of weeks ago.  He expressed a view that the NHS is fantastic at training people in how to make cuts but what is needed now is innovation to unlock long term savings and health improvements.   He said he spends much more time now than he did as an NHS manager trying to meet people who may have innovative solutions to offer, still not enough in his view, but much more than he did in the NHS. 

Recently, we have advised on some fantastic collaborations and joint ventures involving the public sector, charities and the private sector.  Key challenges in those deals were:  aligning the partners' interests;  the partners' understanding of one another's culture and methods of working, and governance and leadership of the collaboration.  However, the potential for delivering efficiencies, great patient/service user experience and improved outcomes is utterly inspiring. 

The NHS needs to reach out to the independent sector for solutions, whether that's technology, flexible staffing models, new products and services, help with more efficient delivery, whatever.  Procurement law need not be a barrier to that initial engagement and most independent sector organisations will welcome the opportunity to engage.

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