Virtual HPN Expo 2020 Highlights

In November we were delighted to hold the first Virtual HPN Expo – a unique virtual networking event for the healthcare sector. Virtual HPN Expo hosted 63 speakers, 31 exhibitors and nearly 1000 senior NHS delegates. 

In addition to welcoming NHS senior leaders, including CEOs, COOs and CIOs, as speakers, we also had the honour of hosting Lord David Prior, Chief Executive of NHS England, and The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee. They joined our event chairman, Niall Dickson CBE, in two exclusive discussions about the challenges of managing the pandemic and the future of healthcare.

Guided by our NHS steering committee, we organised the event into four themes, representative of the most pressing challenges and opportunities in the sector: workforce, skills and wellbeing, AI and intelligent automation, innovation and improvement and telehealth and virtual care models. NHS leaders and suppliers came together in these areas to find new ways forward in the next normal and beyond.

Key takeaways

Across all of the discussions, sessions and workshops that took place during the event, these were just some of the key takeaways:

  • 43% of attendees were reasonably confident we will emerge from the pandemic able to restore services, but were concerned about the system’s ability to meet future demand.
  • Rapid innovations such as artificial intelligence, RPA, virtual care and telehealth were responsible for massive time savings and improvements in key metrics during the pandemic.
  • 2020 has obviously been an incredibly challenging period for the NHS – and the pandemic has exposed both gaps and inequalities in the system.
  • Positively, the pandemic removed the usual constraints on innovation and showed it was possible to affect change at-pace.
  • 48% of attendees felt that integrated care systems could help to bring about some more targeted and co-ordinated care but are not a panacea, given all the other challenges we face.
  • As much as technology is the driver of a lot of change and innovation, the most significant changes that the system needs to make are cultural ones.
  • That the NHS needs to be vigilant and precious about a culture that is equitable and inclusive with a central aim that everyone is in receipt of high quality and safe care.
  • That positive and proactive change around diversity starts with white leaders – they need to lead the agenda.

Event highlights

We were privileged to host a number of insightful, thought-provoking and useful discussions and workshops across all of our themes and involving NHS leaders and suppliers alike. Here are just a few of the highlights of Virtual HPN Expo in 2020.

Think tank panel discussion

Event chairman Niall Dickson CBE hosted a panel discussion on day 2 with the CEOs of the three major health think tanks in the UK:  Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of The Health Foundation, Richard Murrary, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, and Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust. 

Nigel Edwards, Richard Murray and Dr Jennifer Dixon speaking at Virtual HPN Expo

The panel discussed the prospects of the NHS in a post-pandemic world, and reflected on the learnings and positive takeaways from a tumultuous period. 

Richard Murray’s opening comments captured the mood of the panel perfectly: “The future does look daunting. It was quite daunting before and it’s got more daunting now. But on the optimistic side, it did reveal weaknesses in the system, such as social care and underfunding in public health, and underlined shortages in the workforce. We knew these gaps were there, but it’s made them so stark that I think workforce measures and other issues can be turbocharged.”

The three leaders were cautiously optimistic about the future of healthcare but wary of the amount of challenges that we were already facing and new ones that have resurfaced because of the pandemic.

Lord David Prior and Jeremy Hunt

Keen to get some higher level perspective on the challenges the healthcare system is facing, we invited two authoritative voices in the sector to give their perspectives on the state of healthcare, and where we go from here. 

Lord David Prior

Lord David Prior, previously chairman of Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals NHS Trust as well as the CQC, has chaired NHS England since 2018. 

Lord David Prior speaking at Virtual HPN Expo

Lord Prior was quite frank in his assessment of the current situation: “The NHS as an organisation is not in great shape at the moment. The current model of healthcare has to change fundamentally – that’s one of the big learnings coming out of the pandemic. The traditional way of delivering care is not going to work in the long term.” 

That being said, he was cautiously optimistic about the opportunities for innovation, stating that “There’s going to be a massive digital change in the NHS over the next 10 years. Digital transformation is taking big strides in healthcare, but it’s got a long way to go.”

Lord Prior was also keen to emphasise the importance of the NHS collaborating with the private sector and “welcoming them into the ecosystem: “I hope that the NHS can get over the prejudice against the private sector and big pharma. If you look at who’s moved mountains over the last year, it’s Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and the like. It’s the same with diagnostics. We need to embrace these people, they’re on our side.”

He concluded: “Nothing would give me more pleasure than if with the support of the NHS, we created world-class medtech and biotech organisations here in the UK.”

Jeremy Hunt

On day 2, we welcomed The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, chair of the Health and Social Committee. 

Mr Hunt reflected on how governing bodies handled the pandemic in its early stages: “In the first period of the pandemic we had the wrong strategy. We were geared up for a pandemic flu response.We need to ask the searching question why we didn’t prepare ourselves better for a SARs-style pandemic. I think we locked down too late, flirted with herd immunity and then est and trace was implemented too late.”

Jeremy Hunt MP speaking at Virtual HPN Expo

Regarding where we go next, Mr Hunt emphasised safety and quality above all else – asking whether as a nation we were doing enough – around workforce, and the training of doctors and nurses to meet the constitutional standards that we “weren’t meeting before the pandemic.”

Niall asked him to reflect on what he learned as Secretary of State – “I wanted to change things that I could see and measure quickly – but I’ve learned that only the permanent changes you make in an organisation are cultural changes.”

Stay tuned for more information about our healthcare events for 2021.


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