The star-studded speaker list wasn’t enough to convince the 1,000 delegates that everything would be okay following the big bang, when clinical commissioning groups would officially take over from PCTs.
But scepticism doesn’t mean a lack of engagement. The palpable sense of tension diffused after the uplifting talk of Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care and Support.
With clinical commissioners, GPs and practice managers lining the walls, the Liberal Democrat minister explained his vision of the NHS post-reforms – a place of “imaginative commissioning”, where best practice is shared.
Lamb admitted that local communities will be able to spread innovation far more effectively than the government ever could, and called on commissioners as the “real leaders” to “push through the boundaries of what’s possible.” Lamb said: “We’ve got to shift from what I’d call an exclusive way of providing services to an inclusive way.”
Although not the most technical or the most forward- thinking, the question with the most laughs asked after Norman Lamb’s relationship with Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary – do they get on?
It turns out that bringing together ideas from entirely opposite spheres has the same positive effect in politics as healthcare, in Lamb’s eyes: “I’m a fan of the coalition. I’m a fan because it encourages people to think in a different way. Jeremy hasn’t stopped me from doing anything; he’s actually allowed me to follow my passion for integrated care.
“He’s willing to try new things to find out what works.”
And with more than five concurrent streams offering focus-group sized sessions with industry leaders such as the Medical Defence Union and Pfizer, the opportunity to share best practice was all around. Dr Shahid Ali, clinical lead and GP, led a rousing debate on integrating patient records to improve care. He told the group that they need to be sure what they want to change – but pointed out that with £17 million being spent on managing long term conditions, there are “certain places it would make more sense to start”.
CCGs don’t have a long time to prove their worth, Dr Ali said, hailing ‘micro-commissioning’ as the way forward. He explained: “Micro-commissioning is essentially making small scale changes, testing them out and if it doesn’t work – drop it!”
But the case study sessions were the ones in which most was shared and most was learned, it seemed. Delegates from all over the country gathered in groups to discuss topics as diverse as data protection and commissioning
for dementia. Commissioning Live Birmingham (11 May 2013) promises to offer even more specialised case study sessions, from ‘Any Qualified Provider’ to commissioning analytics.
Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England, formerly the NHS Commissioning Board, joined in with this year’s unofficial theme – innovation – by saying that the NHS really needs to share best practice. At the close of the first day his message was this: “We have teams who are doing wonderful innovation, but the rest can be bad at picking it up. The NHS is criticised for being non-innovative, but I’d say that’s not ight – what we’re bad at is plagiarism.” Head of the NHS Confederation’s Mike Farrar delivered a speech focussed on the mindset of a CCG. Speaking to the audience of more than 400 people crammed into the high-ceilinged main room in the Royal Armouries, he asked them: “What are you for?”
Farrar’s speech, putting forward question after challenging question, ended by saying clinical commissioners and the entire healthcare system need a change of mindset. He believed they need to change the discourse so that they don’t get sucked into the same old system. Commissioning Live Leeds was a melting pot of discussion and great ideas, bringing innovation to all of the delegates.