NHS ICT and Informatics Professionals Conference

30th Oct 2002

Hilton Metropole Hotel - London

personal report by Rod Ward

This conference was organised by the NHS Information Authority to recognise the work already taking place in this area, and to look to the future, by launching the first human resource (HR) strategy for ICT and informatics professionals, 'Making Information Count' (Available from: http://www.nhsia.nhs.uk/pdocs/nhsict/making_information_count_final.pdf). The conference was attended by approx 600+ individuals, mostly at Director of IT level working within NHS Trusts and PCTs from all over England. After many of the papers an opportunity to vote on a pertinent questions was offered with voting via electronic handsets, which gave delegates an opportunity to participate and provide feedback to the speakers and conference organisers. The proceedings of the conference, including video of the speakers and the results of the voting will be made available on the NHSIA web site at: http://www.nhsia.nhs.uk. & specifically http://www.nhsia.nhs.uk/def/pages/features/f_211002.asp

Train problems and Midland Mainline's "Emergency Timetable" meant that I missed the opening remarks and welcome from the chair Sir John Pattison, Director of Research, Analysis and Information, Department of Health and arrived during the keynote speech "Making Information Count" by Lord Hunt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (Lords).

Lord Hunt examined the policy context for this strategy development including the NHS plan, CHI inspections and questions to Trust boards and executives about the information on which they are basing decisions. He covered the imperatives in the Wanless report and spending plans for Information developments in the NHS (although still no figure has been announced). he described the need for support and capacity building in informatics and the importance of developing a career process for ICT staff.

After coffee a guest speaker Helen Vandevelde addressed 'Applying talent management strategies to the informatics profession'. She addressed a wide range of issues within society with a heavy dose of "future guessing" projections based on current trends, in a humorous way, however it was not always clear what these had to do with the topics for the day. The issues and drivers included; roles and knowledge, cross cultural working, the 24 hour economy and the development of digital communities. She started with topical references to Angus Deaton & Have I got news for you and asked delegates to spot the odd one out between Vinny Jones, John Prescott, Anne Robinson and a Surinam Toad (you had to be there), her answer was Vinny Jones as he is the only one being held up by government as a role model for "using your head". A wandering presentation covered moves from broadcasting to narrow casting and moves from looking at what we all have in common to what is different about each one of us. She tried to predict the influence/impact of these changes on individuals using Wylie & his wild west yodelers (http://www.wylieww.com/)as an example of the perfect small business of the future. She briefly attempted to relate "networked talents" to informatics in the NHS touching on organisational change and "Cafeteria benefits" for staff. One afternoon speaker described this presentation not as a "helicopter view" more one from a space ship!!

I spent most of lunchtime being interviewed by a reporter from Nursoing Management Journal about the implications for this and other developmenyts for nursing.

The afternoon sessions all seemed more relevant (and probably more realistic) to the concerns and issues of the delegates.

The first speaker was Dr. Glyn Hayes, Chair BCS Health Informatics Committee who spoke about "Pathways to professionalism - where are we now." He emphasised the need for adequate recognition and career pathways in health informatics and the need to reduce the NHS's 40% annual turnover in ICT staff. He presented a definition of Health Informatics - which is used in the strategy document;

'The knowledge, skills and tools which enable information to be collected, managed, used and shared to support the delivery of healthcare and to promote health.'

Glyn went on to expand on the existing problems in the area and suggest possible routes forward focussing on the UK Council for Health Informatics Professions (UKCHIP) which has been established following a growing consensus that there is a need to develop Health Informatics as an independent profession. with appropriate codes of conduct and professional registration. They are current seeking consultation on these with moves to voluntary regulation before (later) applying for statutory regulation. For more on UKCHIP see: http://www.ukchip.org/

A vote following Glyn's presentation showed over 90% of the audience in favour of this development (mush to his relief).

The next presentation entitled "21st century IT: crucial for the government's NHS Modernisation objectives" was given by Dr. Richard Gibbs, an ex Trust Chief exec and now associate consultant for SECTA. He set out a little (recent) history of developments in the NHS and described how the Electronic Health record (EHR) and Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), which should be Evidence Based Healthcare, using pathways and protocols of care underpins the Modernisation strategy. He highlighted the need for culture change and the importance of the Human Resources strategy as well well as IT and illustrated this with personal and organisation insights and experience.

Following this presentation a vote was taken asking "How integrated is informatics across your health community?" and the majority response from delegates was NOT A LOT!

A real world view was given next by Ted Woodhoouse, Director of Information Services, Leeds teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who asked "Can we, the people, successfully deliver 21st Century IT? - A trust perspective". He considered capacity planning and the current state of readiness. He felt that the focus priorities and people within the NHS were not good for the delivery of the 21C-IT strategy, and discussed the raised expectations that had been brought about by Information for Health since its publication in 1998. He painted a picture of organisational upheaval and initiative overload which was being placed on trusts who were all starting from different points in respect to IT. He warned of the risk of "silo funding" related to National Service Frameworks (NSF) and the balance to be drawn between national and local control.

The NHSU was the next item on the agenda with Alasdair Liddell, iMPOWER Group PLC, presenting "NHSU and the future role of the Faculty of Health informatics". He set out the need for the NHSU to develop the NHS as a learning organisation, supporting modernisation, and extending access to education, learning and personal development with an overview of the (short) history so far, and described the 8 guiding principles;

He then went on to describe the early programmes which will be available soon including; induction, including communication skills; skills for life including language, numeracy and literacy; foundation degrees; junior scholarships (14-16 yr olds); management, first contact, infection control, etc. With brief descriptions of the proposals for elearning, advice and support and qualifications and accreditation. He considered the use of the F word (Faculty) and explained that Health informatics will be the first Faculty.

The final speaker was Peter Drury NHS Head of Information Policy Unit, Department of Health who tried to draw together all of the issues raised during the day with his presentation "Piecing the jigsaw - next steps".

Due to the issues with trains I did not stay for the final question and answer session.

The venue was smart and reasonably equipped, however the 4 floors between the conference session and coffee provision was bit much for some of the delegates.

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last Updated: 30.8.03