Tunstall’s Business Development Director Steve Tope shares his insight following his recent attendance at an HSJ (Health Service Journal) event.

For me, the most valuable reason to attend events is to learn. From seminars and presentations, and from exhibitors, but most importantly by networking with delegates. Of course there is an expected return on investment from attending conferences and exhibitions – we live in a commercial world – but the insight gained from having one-to-one conversations with senior decision makers in health is the only way we can truly understand their challenges, and ensure our solutions are geared towards addressing their goals.

A recent HSJ commissioning event stands out for me for several reasons. The level and quality of people attending was high, the content of the programme was good and I learnt more about the current state and future plans of STPs (Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships*) and the direction of the NHS.

There is no blueprint for STPs, and change is a challenge for many organisations, but particularly for the NHS. It was clear from the conference that few STPs believe they have all the answers. There was much debate over finances, as you would expect, with not just the amount of money allocated to STPs in question, but the funding mechanisms themselves. Some attendees were concerned that the flow of money from central government through the tariff structure to localities, as well as payment by results, does not support the STPs in achieving their outcomes.

Another major theme was the disconnect between recognising the benefits of delivering more care in the community, but the enormous changes and finances required to do this along with the public resistance to hospital closure. Ask most people if they would prefer to receive healthcare in their own homes and the majority will say yes. Ask the same people if they would be happy to lose one of their local hospitals to fund this and the answer will be a resounding no. Many clinicians are also entrenched in delivering care based around location, rather than patient need. There is simply not the will or ‘extra’ funding to embark upon the radical transformation of services required, and enable the required overlap between the conclusion of one method of service delivery and the introduction of another.

However, for all the negativity, there are also clear opportunities. In rural areas in particular, technology can revolutionise case load management, increasing capacity across primary and secondary care and improving quality of life and outcomes for patients. We’ve seen how remote monitoring can achieve fantastic results for patients, clinicians and the NHS right across the UK, but regrettably this tends to remain in isolated programmes for smaller cohorts. The big wins come from adopting technology at scale and designing service delivery with this in mind, and my conversations at HSJ and other events show an increasing level of traction in the NHS towards committing to wholesale strategic change in order to deliver the significant efficiencies required.

Our job at Tunstall is to work with the STPs to help them recognise what is possible, and ‘what good looks like’ for their area. Technology is not a bolt-on or a nice to have; used properly it is an effective means of providing a platform for service transformation. There are few solutions that can help our health service to save money, manage demand and improve patient care. Here’s hoping the STPs fully realise the potential of technology to help the NHS get fit for the future.

*There are 44 Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships in England, created in order to implement Sustainability and Transformation Plans which aim to accelerate implementation of the NHS Five Year Forward View and integrate health and social care provision.