‘Stop launching life rafts and start fixing the ship’

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In the final keynote address of day one at Confed17, Niall Dickson offered his reflections on current challenges facing members, and called for the new UK parliament to take the opportunity to ‘reset the clock,’ and have a national conversation to consider what can be achieved in the months and years ahead.

Acknowledging the response to the terror attacks in London and Manchester and today’s devastating fire in West London, Niall praised the remarkable things being achieved by the NHS.

He highlighted that the NHS has continued to provide good care to millions of people, despite record highs in demand and record lows in funding growth, but strains are also evident.

In terms of current political uncertainty, Niall suggested that constraints of parliamentary numbers may in fact present an opportunity. He called for the government to take the chance to work differently, finding areas of common agreement on the issues that matter most to the public, which last week’s general election showed to be health and social care.

Start fixing the ship

A national conversation, which recognises the scale of the coming challenge, is urgently needed to agree a vision for the future of health and care services, said Niall.

“Our message to the politicians is that when it comes to the NHS, we have to stop launching life rafts and start fixing the ship,” and he stated these fixes come in three challenges: Money, transformation and workforce.

“We need clarity on funding, we need political courage on transformation and a new approach on securing and supporting our workforce,” he said.

United and unambiguous

Rallying support from the audience and Confed members, he summarised: “In these uncertain times, more than ever, we need to be united and unambiguous – clear what our offer is to the British people and what we need to deliver it. Some of this will be uncomfortable and we must be honest about what can and cannot be achieved and what is needed to bring about the transformation to which we are all committed.”


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