The Nuffield Trust’s fourth Health Policy Summit opens on Wednesday, bringing together senior health leaders, clinicians, policymakers and academics. The timing is not auspicious. Intense political wrangling over the health bill has spilled out beyond Westminster and opinion remains bitterly divided about whether it will enable or ruin the chances of NHS clinicians and managers to meet the challenges ahead of them. By this stage, few delegates will expect Andrew Lansley’s speech to the summit, which will also be streamed live, to change any minds. But, if nothing else, it will be an absorbing debate at such a politically sensitive time.
Whatever you think of the government’s proposals, the financial challenge that predated them is now a reality for the NHS. It is also rapidly becoming apparent to the public. The most urgent question now is not so much whether money can be saved, but whether money can be saved without damaging patient care. The search for innovations that can support delivery of more efficient, higher quality care is a major theme at this year’s summit, and it is a search with wide horizons.
Delegates (and Guardian Healthcare Network Twitter followers) will hear from Dr Devy Shetty, chairman of Narayana Hrudayalaya, the heart hospital in Bangalore, India, that has revolutionised the delivery of cardiac surgery, providing access to thousands of people with no health insurance. Shetty and his team perform heart surgery in high volumes at a fraction of the cost of richer health systems, using novel approaches to funding, technology and workforce that hold important, albeit challenging, lessons for the NHS.
We are also sharing innovations from North America, where policymakers are grappling to contain costs and meet the needs of older patients. There will be an update from the US on accountable care organisations from Dr Mike Zezza of the Commonwealth Fund and news of an “elder friendly” integrated care initiative that is being pioneered, unusually, from an acute hospital by geriatrician Dr Samir Sinha.
There is also no shortage of inspiration from the NHS itself. The summit will hear about new ideas for efficient and integrated services being pioneered by trusts and commissioners across England and Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta, will be giving his thoughts on how to enable innovation in health and social care.
Ruth Thorlby is a senior fellow at the Nuffield Trust
• The Health Policy Summit is taking place 29 February–1 March and the Guardian Healthcare Network will be covering the event on the site and on Twitter. Follow us @gdnhealthcare and to hear more about the Health Policy Summit and other healthcare news, sign up here to recieve our weekly email now.
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