Civil Service Live 2014: Una O’Brien and the challenges ahead for UK health care

Civil Service Live 2014 gave health care workers a rare chance to hear directly from some of the most important figures in the UK health sector. Department of Health Permanent Secretary’s Una O'Brien’s keynote speech was a highlight, as she looked ahead to some of the trends that will drive the evolution of the NHS in the years to come.

O'Brien’s talk focused on three big ideas:

  • The democratisation of services will change the caregiver-patient relationship. This is an ongoing trend, and one that isn’t likely to go away any time soon, O'Brien said. So many businesses today are able to use internal data to provide tailored, personalised experiences to their customers. Patients are coming to expect the same the same level of personalised care. Clinicians need to look for ways to get out in front of this trend and evolve along with patient expectations, O'Brien said.
  • New tools will change how we work. The rise of mobile devices in the workplace and the increasing use of Big Data technologies will change how clinicians work. Rather than try to work new technologies into their old routines, today’s health care workers need to adapt and discover new ways of working that make the most of these tools.
  • The quest for efficiency continues. The budgetary pressures that have characterised the past few years aren’t going away any time soon. O'Brien said the question before health care workers is “are we just going to hold our elbows in? Or do we try to get creative?” The second approach might be more difficult, but in the long run it might be the only way to achieve the kinds of improvements needed.

How are you adapting to meet these challenges? Are you learning to work more flexibly with mobile devices? Are you focused on making the most of clinical data? Are you trying to reimagine your role on a day-to-day basis? What’s been your biggest challenge so far?

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