The reality of the world: anticipating failures to achieve success


Emil is a former British Army officer who now specialises in change and transformation in complex environments, including the NHS. He is currently Head of Transformational Programmes and Projects at NHS Shared Business Services.

I recently walked into my local high street bookshop. I counted dozens of books telling me how to succeed at project delivery. There was no shortage of people offering their tips for success. I couldn’t find any books about how to avoid failure.

This is odd but not surprising. From childhood, we’re conditioned to be uncomfortable with the thought of things going wrong. No-one likes making mistakes. Our education system is built on telling us ‘how to do things’, and punishes us for getting things wrong. The world is filled with motivational speakers talking about the sunny uplands. Can you think of a single modern motivational speaker who talks about avoiding the dark abyss?

Emil Bernal, Head of Transformational Programmes and Projects, NHS Shared Business Services

Programmes and projects are no different. We start with optimism and marvel at the promise of a brighter tomorrow. And, for sure, optimism is needed to motivate a team to take on challenging goal. But excessive optimism in our ability to shape and influence the future has led to spectacular failures.

Things can and do go wrong. The NHS has the dubious honour of hosting one of the most expensive failures – the world’s largest civil IT programme, the £12.4 billion National Programme for IT.

In their book, “How big things get done”, Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner researched the outcomes of over 16,000 projects in 136 countries. Their data shows that 92 per cent of projects overrun on time, cost or both. And cost overruns can be dramatic.

The average cost over-run for every Olympic Games since 1960 is 157 per cent. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was 450 per cent over budget. Scotland’s Parliament building was 978 per cent over budget.

The private sector doesn’t do any better. In 2000, Kmart launched two IT projects. Costs exploded, contributing to the company going bankrupt in 2002. Even families get it wrong: you only have to watch Grand Designs to see people’s home renovations go over budget and run late.

We need to learn what went well with previous projects. And we need to understand what went wrong – “how not to” repeat the same mistakes. So, when wide-ranging reports are published – like Patricia Hewitt’s recent review of Integrated Care Systems – I start, as many people do, by thinking “how are we going to get this done”? The next thought is perhaps less common. How do we avoid things going wrong?

Here, then, are five ways to stop things going wrong:

1. Go to the cinema. Or, rather, think about projects in the same way as the film industry: get the balance right between planning and delivery. There’s often a push to start “doing something”. This misses the point that planning is doing something. The film industry understands this, and gives film producers time to plan. During planning, costs are relatively low while film producers explore ideas, produce storyboards, and redraft scripts. Costs explode when production starts and Hollywood stars and crews are working. The work that producers put in upfront means that filming follows a well thought-through plan and avoids costly delays.

2. Find experience and expertise. Very few projects are genuinely unique. There will always be something that makes a project different from others. But, in many ways, your project will be “another one of those”. People who worked on “one of those” will have valuable experience and expertise. Find those people.

3. Listen to that experience. Having found your experts, listen to them even if – especially if – it’s something you don’t want to hear. Listen when they tell you that the project will cost more than the figure you have in mind. Listen when they tell you the project is likely to be more complex and take longer that you ideally wanted. Listen when they tell you about the issues and risks you’re likely to face. It’s better to be told a painful truth early, rather than push ahead in comfortable ignorance.

4. Ask four questions. There is a cultural tendency to shy away from disagreement. So, be explicit and ask for alternative views. As we start to form an outline solution to a problem, I’ll often ask four interrelated questions: what’s good about our solution that we should keep? What needs to be changed? What’s not needed? And – probably the hardest question to answer – what’s missing?

5. Get hindsight in advance. Lessons learnt – or after-action reviews – are standard practice. Flipping this on its head is a useful way of identifying where things could wrong. This approach was popularised by psychologist Gary Klein and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and is often called a ‘pre-mortem’. It’s simple but powerful. Get the team to imagine that their project has already failed. What caused the failure? Work backwards to figure out the causes. Run through a few scenarios. The time spent visualising different outcomes will bring to life the future for the team. And, after the pre-mortem session, make sure that you re-energise the team’s belief in the project.

By taking these steps, you can give yourself the best chances for success. But even the best planning won’t stop issues from cropping up. A supplier lets you down. A team member falls ill. A pandemic. A ship getting stuck in the Suez canal. You’ll have to be ready to manage issues and find practical solutions. But, by getting the planning right, the window of time when risks can come crashing into your world will be smaller – like the film industry which spends time in planning so that the costly production phase can zip along from start to finish.

Learning from your mistakes is called experience. Learning from other people’s mistakes is called wisdom. I wonder how long it will be before I start to see the shelves of my local bookshop filling up with stories about things that went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes?


Featured, News, Workforce

Poor work/life balance driving NHS exodus


As vacancies hit record levels, doctors and nurses want more flexible work arrangements to carry on working in healthcare, study from Deloitte finds.

Poor work-life balance is a key driver of job dissatisfaction for healthcare workers, and improvements are within the power of employers, according to new research from Deloitte’s Centre for Health Solutions.

The findings come from the report, Time to Change: Sustaining the UK’s clinical workforce, which looked at the experience and resilience of front-line clinicians, based on a survey of 1,286 UK public healthcare workers. The study examines how attitudes within the profession have changed since 2017, when a similar piece of research was conducted, and includes input from doctors, nurses and other clinical staff working in primary, community and secondary care.

Having a ‘sense of fulfilment/making a difference’ (42 per cent) and a good ‘work-life balance’ (41 per cent) are the top two drivers of job satisfaction for healthcare workers, the study found. By contrast, pay (60 per cent) and having a poor work-life balance (42 per cent) were found be the two main drivers of job dissatisfaction within the professions.

The high ranking of work-life balance for job satisfaction and dissatisfaction is in stark contrast to five years ago, when work-life balance was the fifth-biggest driver of job satisfaction, according to Deloitte’s 2017 study.

When asked how their feelings on job satisfaction and dissatisfaction has affected career intentions, the most common response, among 53 per cent of all respondents and 59 per cent of doctors, was to reduce hours and move to part-time working in healthcare. In addition, 40 per cent of clinicians overall, including 35 per cent of doctors and half of nurses and midwives had considered leaving the profession and changing career.

The study follows a slew of unwelcome news in recent days, including (now-confirmed) speculation that the government’s long-awaited NHS workforce plan (due to be published Tuesday 30th May) is to be delayed as it is considered too costly and the admission from the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, that the 40 new hospitals will now not be built by 2030 – in contravention of the Conservative government’s flagship pledge.

Additionally, NHS vacancies remain at record levels as the health service continues to struggle to attract and retain staff. One-fifth of all nursing posts in England are estimated as vacant, and NHS trusts fear that the situation will not change until the government sets out a fully-costed workforce plan.

Karen Taylor, Director and Head of Research at Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions, said: “The problem has worsened over the past few years and our findings mirror recent staff surveys from the industry. There is a clear need to address the physical and mental health needs of staff if employers are to build a resilient workforce.

“Many solutions are in the hands of local health organisations to address and several have implemented effective solutions, just not at the scale needed.”

Sara Siegel, Partner and UK and Global Head of Health at Deloitte, said: “The most vital asset in healthcare is its workforce. Our study shows that the availability, accessibility and quality of care available to patients depend on having the right professionals, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.

“Healthcare leaders have a real opportunity to make a long-lasting impact in this crucial area. Those that have adopted new ways of working and technologies, have already realised the benefits to empower their workers. Not only will this help patients, but it will have a positive impact on job satisfaction that supports individuals to build rewarding, long-term careers in healthcare.”

Implications for physical and mental health

The study also revealed that 87 per cent of clinicians had experienced an increase in their workloads since March 2020, including 90 per cent of nurses and midwives and 84 per cent of doctors, with serious mental health and wellbeing implications for those staff affected; 46 per cent of clinical staff reported experiencing a negative impact on their physical health, including 50 per cent of hospital doctors and 45 per cent of hospital nurses. The study also found 57 per cent disclose a negative impact on their mental health, including 58 per cent of hospital doctors and 59 per cent of hospital nurses.

This contrasts with the 2017 study, in which 30 per cent of hospital doctors and 32 per cent of hospital nurses said that their workload had a negative effect on their physical health; and 23 per cent of hospital doctors and 33 per cent of hospital nurses said that it affected their mental health.

Digitisation will help – eventually

Numerous policy documents and reports, including the NHS Long Term plan, have identified the importance of adopting technology across healthcare. Deloitte’s study therefore asked healthcare workers which technologies they think are helping to improve the quality of patient care. The top five technologies included Electronic Health Records (EHR) (87 per cent), e-prescribing (78 per cent), patient apps (73 per cent), at-home diagnostics (70 per cent) and remote consultations (70 per cent).

Adoption remains low, however, and only 64 per cent of clinicians said they are using EHRs, while fewer than half of respondents have adopted e-prescribing (46 per cent), patient apps (33 per cent), at-home diagnostics (22 per cent) and remote consultations (39 per cent). Likewise, automation of human resource and occupational development services is lagging behind other industries and the study points out the crucial need to modernise these areas.

Dr Karen Kirkham, partner and Chief Medical Officer at Deloitte added: “While healthcare workers know that technology-enabled care models, systems and processes can improve outcomes and safety for patients, simplify tasks and reduce the significant administrative burden for clinicians, adoption remains fragmented.

“Healthcare leaders need to modernise and unlock better ways of working that improve the employee – and employer – experience. More efficient HR and people policies that focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, investing in leadership and professional development, and accelerating the digitalisation of healthcare infrastructure, will go a long way towards developing new ways of working that release time to care.”

Featured, News, Workforce

NHS must seize upon growth in physiotherapist numbers


Growth in the physiotherapy workforce should be the solution to the workforce crises in the NHS community rehabilitation services.

The physiotherapy workforce is ripe for expansion, which is good news for the public, policy makers and service providers. But this good news is not resulting in a high-quality rehabilitation service for all with a well-resourced physiotherapy workforce.

Many people do not know what good quality rehabilitation should look like, and there exists a growing unmet population need, combined with historic understaffing of community services, particularly of rehabilitation services.

At present, nearly a third of people in England has a long-term health condition. People with long-term conditions are being pushed into the most expensive and overburdened parts of health and care because they are not being supported in the community to manage their conditions effectively.

The needs of people with long-term physical conditions account for half of all GP consultations, 70 per cent of bed days in hospital and 70 per cent of total health and social care spending, while more than 60 per cent of patients admitted to hospital as an emergency have one or more long-term conditions.

Lack of access to high quality rehabilitation services

Narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy will only happen with better access to quality community and primary care services for people with long-term conditions and for these services to be integrated around their needs.

NHS community rehabilitation services have been developed in a piecemeal way, often siloed by medical condition, with varying criteria for access. Furthermore, poor access to rehabilitation is particularly concentrated in areas of deprivation and among marginalised groups, resulting in more demand for GP appointments, increased A&E attendance and admissions.

Delivery plans for NHS policies have been also undermined by the lack of calculations on the additional staff capacity needed. For example, policies on urgent community response and discharge to assess have been implemented at the expense of rehabilitation, because they are delivered by the same group of staff. This has meant the policies have failed to reduce emergency admissions or the harm from delayed discharge.

However, for the last five years, additional roles in primary care have improved access to expert advice and diagnosis within primary care.

The value of Musculoskeletal first contact physiotherapist roles

An example of this is the establishment of the role of the Musculoskeletal first contact physiotherapist (MSK FCPs). MSK FCPs are improving patient outcomes, reducing demands on GPs, cutting medicine prescribing and reducing unnecessary onward referrals and tests.

The initial target provided in the Interim People Plan 2019 was stated as 5000 MSK FCPs, but currently there are only 1376 posts covering many GP surgeries and population sizes several times more than originally modelled. Due to these issues, GPs report that they don’t feel the impact of MSK FCPs, and issues of MSK FCPs retention are emerging.

This dynamic undermines implementation and has slowed down the evolution of the MSK FCP role which would support integration with community services.

How can we expand the physiotherapy workforce?

Community rehabilitation services are experiencing difficulties with recruitment and retention, but even greater issues are a lack of established posts and gaps in provision. 15 per cent of physiotherapy staff are leaving the NHS each year and almost half of them are leaving within the first five years of qualifying.

Many are moving to the private sector, but some newly qualified physiotherapists are seeking positions in low-skilled roles in the commercial sector citing less stress, flexible working hours and better pay. There is also the worrying issue of support workers retiring; a 2019 CSP survey of support workers shows that approximately 24 per cent of the current physiotherapy support worker workforce are over 55 years of age.

To compound this, a recent CSP staffing survey, showed that 93 per cent of physiotherapy managers reported that there were insufficient staffing numbers to meet patient needs and 39 per cent of physiotherapy staff reported that this was something they were very concerned about. CSP members also reported having less time to spend with patients, longer waiting times and a lack of available time to improve services, while issues around staff retention and an inability to fill vacant posts were also highlighted by members as contributing factors to insufficient staffing levels.

In the UK, there are currently nine registered physiotherapists for every 10,000 people compared to Denmark, where there are 26.8 physiotherapists for every 10,000 people and Norway, where there are 25.3 physiotherapists for every 10,000 people.

What are the solutions?

Over the years, the NHS has not grasped that, if done well, an increase in physiotherapy provision can help to meet patient needs and reduce pressures on the most overstretched parts of the system.

Insufficient staffing levels are contributing to recruitment and retention problems, which has led to a vicious cycle of high workloads and too few staff.

Change can happen but this requires increased staffing as well as doing more to attract and retain the physiotherapy workforce. The growth in the numbers of registered physiotherapists is increasing, but a sustainable and long-term workforce solution is urgently needed.

The NHSE Long Term Plan must support integrated workforce planning, with targets across primary and community sectors based not on the status quo but on Government and system policy objectives to improve provision to meet population need.

Support workers also have a vital role to play – they need expanding in number and should be upskilled through Rehab Assistant Practitioner apprenticeships to take on greater responsibility, making it possible to safely expand the support worker workforce as a proportion of the workforce overall.

As well as addressing under-staffing, community services also need more strategic leadership, consistency of provision and visibility within the NHS. The lack of leadership in community services is worrying; where Trusts have Chief AHPs at a senior level, community service leadership is strengthened, improving visibility. As well as ensuring this is the case within all Trusts, there need to be more clinical therapy roles within the community working at an advanced practice or consultant level to drive up consistency in standards, lead integration across pathways and partnership working with primary care.

The good news is that the number of registered physiotherapists is growing, alongside a supply of students. Now is the time for the NHS to utilise this rise in numbers. Doing so will go a great way towards tackling the current workforce crisis in NHS community rehabilitation services.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy will be joining ICJ and Public Policy Projects at the Integrated Care Delivery Forum in Manchester, this Thursday 25th May. The event is free to attend for relevant healthcare professionals, so come and say hello!

The future of occupational therapy and the impact of technology


Leading occupational therapist, Alicia Ridout, discusses her award-winning work and explores the central role of technology in the future of occupational therapy.

Alicia Ridout, a leading occupational therapist, has recently won the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) Tunstall Award for Technology Innovation for her work on the pioneering COG-OT – the Clinical Onboarding Guide for occupational therapists, which she and her team have used to continue their discovery work and to progress the project.

Here, she discusses the importance of technology in occupational therapy and why programmes such as COG-OT are essential for health professional development.

The importance of occupational therapy in wider healthcare

Occupational therapy is essential to the health and care sector and as a sector, we need to ensure that robust systems are put in place to keep up to date with digital competencies and boost confidence to use technology safely, in day-to-day practice. This will help the sector to continue supporting the efforts of the wider health and care landscape to digitise services effectively and improve access for people who need it.

Alicia Ridout, independent occupational therapist and creator of the COG-OT app

Occupational therapy is about working alongside people and their families, helping them achieve their personal goals and essential practical skills, using a holistic approach that respects their strengths and assets. This includes physical, sensory, mental health or communication needs. We see people in a wide range of contexts, people who are experiencing a wide variety of challenges, often for very different reasons.

Occupational therapists’ roles are unique in that we provide services to all age groups, across service boundaries. When it comes to supporting the wider care sector workforce in enabling people to safely access digital tools and services, the sector has always been actively focused on seeking out new technology. COG-OT provides a quick and easy means to access evidence and build competency driven technology skills.

The role of technology in occupational therapy

According to a recent study by RCOT, occupational therapists are facing pressures due to increased demand and vacancies within the industry. This potentially risks leaving people needing assessments, with little or no intervention.

There is a huge opportunity for technology to support people accessing services and occupational therapists, particularly when it comes to prioritising their requirements and influencing technology procurements. Using digital solutions offers the chance to reduce variation in workflows and processes, and also facilitate best clinical practice, streamline access to the right technology, at the right time, and ensure the end user’s experience is high quality.

We launched COG-OT as a web app in 2020, as a proof-of-concept approach to supporting practice development, funded by the Elizabeth Casson Trust. To date, we have won further funding from the Trust to evaluate the tool, as well as funding as part of the RCOT awards twice, in 2021 and 2023, which is crucial for the continued development of this vital resource for occupational therapists.

Why COG-OT has made a difference to the profession

COG-OT supports the profession with guide question sets to stimulate their reasoning about the needs of their service users. It can provide areas of focus and exploration when assessing people who have been referred to their service. This is hugely beneficial to less experienced digital practitioners, as it can help to navigate to the correct technology solution for an individual’s needs and ensure effort invested in the onboarding process is effective. The tool can help therapists by instilling confidence and a consistent but personalised approach to the deployment of technology.

Since the pandemic, digital practice has become increasingly prominent and this is no different in occupational therapy. Digitisation offers its own challenges, but by implementing tools such as COG-OT we are aiming to equip professionals with the digital clinical risk management tools they need for effective practice.

Why investment in technology needs to be prioritised, and how ICSs can support the occupational therapy community

ICSs provide a voice for Allied Health Professions (AHP) via Councils, driving improvement programmes and getting research into practice. The COG-OT team have been working with colleagues in an ICS to surface digital requirements across systems of care and we aim to share this insight widely. Digital confidence is one of many challenges facing AHPs at present, and the wider workforce.

However, as a next step, the sector needs to ensure consistent access to digital solutions, both to support workflows and also speed access to the right technology for users of services and their families. This will ensure that no matter the patient pathway, occupational therapists have easy access to recommended platforms that are of high quality, adhere to regulatory requirements and support clinically driven and collaboratively defined solutions for people in need.

Occupational therapists need to clearly articulate their requirements in this respect. They play a key role in personalised care and ensuring a holistic approach to safe digital deployment at every stage in the care journey – from hospital to community or intermediate care and at home. Digital use at home is different to a hospital environment, and we need to ensure holistic clinical risk assessments are completed.

By integrating safe and high-quality technology into our daily practice, working together with service users and their families and with other health and care professionals, we can pave the way for solutions that really make a difference.

For more information about COG-OT, please contact:

For more information about Tunstall, please visit:

Number of repeat prescriptions ordered via NHS App up 92% in last year


2.4 million repeat prescriptions were requested through the NHS App in April and more than 500,000 repeat prescriptions are now booked through the app every week.

New figures released by NHS England show that since the NHS App’s launch in December 2018, more than 42 million repeat prescriptions have been ordered through the app. In April 2023 alone, the NHS App enabled 2.4 million repeat prescriptions to be ordered, compared with 1.7 million in April 2022 and 393,000 in April 2021.

The latest figures represent a 92 per cent year-on-year increase in repeat prescriptions ordered via the app from 13 million in 2021/22 to 25 million in 2022/23. The increase comes ahead of the NHS’s milestone 75th birthday on 5 July, when the achievements and innovations of the NHS and its staff will be celebrated.

Patients across England were reminded of the benefits of using the NHS App to order repeat prescriptions, ahead of the upcoming bank holidays in May.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England David Webb said “we are reminding people of the excellent benefits of the NHS App,” particularly in the context of May’s long bank holiday weekends limiting access to GPs.

Webb continued: “Patients can order repeat prescriptions through the app at a time and date convenient to them and access community pharmacy information about local healthcare advice and services available during the bank holidays.

“The NHS has always innovated and adapted to meet the needs of each generation and as we approach the NHS 75th birthday, the NHS App is yet another fantastic example of how we are doing this.

“The app offers a digital front door for interacting with the NHS with a host of new features launched in the last year– empowering patients to access services from the comfort of their homes. As ever, if you need care during the bank holiday weekend, come forward – using 999 in life threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for other health concerns.”

Some of the features available on the NHS App enable patients to view their GP health record, nominate their preferred pharmacy, find local NHS services and get health advice via 111 online.

New and innovative features continue to be rolled out to help patients access convenient and high-quality care when and where they need it. Patients in many parts of the country are now able to view and manage their hospital appointments on the app, and many GP practices are now sending NHS App notifications to patients with appointment reminders and other messages relating to their care.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Technology is transforming the way we deliver healthcare for patients, and I’m determined that the NHS App plays a vital role in this.

“Repeat prescription orders through the app have increased by 92 per cent in the last year – including 2.4 million in last month alone. This is freeing up valuable time for clinicians and helping people access services easily and conveniently from the comfort of their own homes.

“A host of new innovative features have also been rolled out– from viewing GP records to finding local health services – offering a digital front door to the NHS.”

The NHS App has now recorded more than 32 million sign-ups (as of April 2023).

More than 28 million of these have fully verified their identity through NHS login, which means they can now access a variety of digital healthcare services quickly and securely through the NHS App.

News, Workforce

Workplace discrimination and equality concerns driving NHS acute staff exodus


Almost a quarter of surveyed staff working for NHS England acute trusts stated in their 2022 Staff Survey that they intend to leave their role in the next 12 months.

Workplace discrimination and equality concerns are the most significant factors driving acute staff to leave the NHS, according to analysis of the 2022 NHS Staff Survey conducted by consultancy firm Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP).

In a workforce already plagued by burnout, stalling pay and low morale, the findings will come as concern for policymakers seeking to staunch and reverse the flow of acute staff leaving the NHS. The acute sector employs more than 850,000 full-time equivalent staff, 25 per cent of whom are Asian, black or another minority ethnicity, compared to 13 per cent of all working-age adults in the UK.

Among the diversity and equality issues highlighted in the NHS Staff Survey were: a lack of fairness in career progression and promotion (reported by one in eight respondents); discrimination from managers or other colleagues (nearly one in ten); discrimination from patients, their relatives, or members of the public (more than one in twelve); and a lack of respect for individual differences (almost one in twelve).

There was variation in staff responses based on their ethnic background. In particular, 17.2 per cent of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds reported experiencing discrimination from their manager or colleagues, compared to 6.8 per cent of white staff members. These findings are notable in light of recent reports documenting a pattern of racism and discrimination in the NHS.

LCP also looked at all the acute trusts across England to identify which areas most struggle with the diversity and equality issues named above. London and the East of England are the worst-performing regions, but the problem is widespread.

Source: LCP. Data source: 2022 NHS Staff Survey. Diversity and equality score is reported on a 0-10 point scale and is based on responses to four contributing questions. Acute trust catchment boundaries adopted from the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities. (Click to enlarge.)

Hotspots for staff dissatisfaction

There is a stark geographical contrast across England when it comes to staff planning to leave the NHS. Trusts with the highest percentages of staff intending to leave are overwhelmingly located in London and the East of England, while trusts with the lowest percentages of staff intending to leave are concentrated in the North West and North East and Yorkshire.

Source: LCP. Data source: 2022 NHS Staff Survey. Acute trust catchment boundaries adapted from the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities. (Click to enlarge.)

Natalie Tikhonovsky, Analyst in LCP’s Health Analytics team, said: “Our analysis reveals a grim picture of low satisfaction levels and higher staff turnover rates currently facing the NHS acute sector. Understanding what is driving this will be key to the success of the government’s new workforce plan and to the overall aim of reducing steadily increasing wait lists.”

Catrin Treharne, Principal in LCP’s Health Analytics team, also commented: “The next steps for improving the NHS’s organisational health could include addressing disparities in staff satisfaction levels between trusts and investing in diversity and equality efforts to foster inclusive workplace environments. By understanding the root cause of NHS workforce challenges and designing solutions to properly address these, we can improve not only workforce satisfaction in the NHS but also patient satisfaction and outcomes.”

News, Thought Leadership

Leaders call for ICSs to “subvert” health and care system

Danielle Oum

Public Policy Projects’ ICS Delivery Forum event in Birmingham on Tuesday, 18 April, saw integrated care leaders from across the West Midlands convene for localised debate on the future of integrated care for the region.

“Ambition and partnership” are the central ingredients to successful integrated care, according to Danielle Oum, Chair of Coventry and Warwickshire ICB (pictured above). Oum was speaking at the Public Policy Projects (PPP) ICS Delivery Forum at the Library of Birmingham on Tuesday, 18 April, where hundreds of key health and care stakeholders, including ICS leaders, clinicians, local authority leadership and community representatives gathered for a day of localised debate and networking.

The ICS Delivery Forum is a series of localised events designed to monitor the progress, and help realise the aspirations, of integrated care. Throughout 2023, PPP is hosting Forums in: Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and London.

The setting for this Forum was the Library of Birmingham, a place described by Oum as a “centre of excellence for research, for learning, for creative expression, for health information.” In many ways, Oum said, this visible anchor institution epitomises the ambition and partnership a that should define an ICS.

“If integrated care is successful, it can totally subvert our model for health and care”

Oum used her keynote address to call for the NHS to be more “mindful” of the impact it has on local economies, emphasising the role of the NHS as key local employer to regions.

“If integrated care is successful, it can totally subvert our model for health and care,” said Oum, who stressed that resources must be “refocused and rebalanced” in order to target energies onto health prevention, early intervention and reducing levels of ill health and inequality.

ICS Delivery Forum
Hundreds of health and care leaders from across the midlands attended the Delivery Forum.

Following Oum’s keynote address, a series of panel discussions and case study presentations were provided to an audience of more than 150 local ICS, NHS and local authority leaders and community representatives. Key topics of the day included:

  • Developing partnerships to deliver services
  • Collaborating to optimise the patient pathway
  • Effectively addressing health inequality in the West Midlands
  • Developing a truly integrated workforce strategy

While topics may be familiar to many who will have attended health and care conferences, this Delivery Forum was unique in that it was entirely focused on the West Midlands region. “If integrated care is to be developed locally, then it must be discussed and debated locally,” said PPP Head of Content, David Duffy, who also stressed that, in the shadow of the Hewitt Review, it is vital that, now more than ever, that local leaders are given the necessary platforms to identify the challenges and opportunities in integrated care most relevant to them.

Also speaking was Tapiwa Mtemachani, Director of Strategy and Partnership for Black Country ICB. Emphasising the importance of partnership and of assets to transform care presented by the local community, Tapiwa Mtemachani, Director of Strategy and Partnership for Black Country ICB. Mtemachani emphasised the importance of partnership and prevention in bringing down stubborn levels of deprivation and health inequalities seen across the Black Country, which has the second most deprived population of any of the 42 ICSs in the country.

ICS Delivery Forum

“There is a narrative that prevention is too costly, but prevention is how the system should be managing demand, how it can reduce costs and expenditure while improving outcomes,” said Mtemachani. Black Country ICB has been doing this through extensive partnership working with local housing providers, using their local reach to promote prevention and overall health promotion. “At fairly low cost, we have developed a health coaching model for citizens, in close partnership with Walsall Housing Group, with impact already visible for our citizens,” Mtemachani explained.

Other notable local ICS representation included Dr Ananta Dave, Chief Medical Officer for Black Country ICB, who outlined how ICSs can help optimise patient pathways across the West Midlands. Also in attendance was Former MP, Salma Yaqoob, who is now Programme Director for Health Inequalities for Birmingham and Solihull ICB and Shajeda Ahmed, Chief People Officer for Black Country ICB.

The next ICS Delivery Forum takes place in Manchester on 25 May . PPP will be publishing a full report of the key insights uncovered at the Birmingham ICS Delivery Forum. For more information on the Delivery Forum, please visit the PPP website. 


Tackling rehabilitation provision must be a priority for ICBs


By Natasha Owusu, Policy Lead (England) and Rachel Newton, Head of Policy at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

Rehabilitation, long-term conditions and health inequity

It is not fair that a person’s ethnicity, socioeconomic situation, sex, age, religion, sexuality and disability can determine the level of access they have to rehabilitation services which can lead to worse health outcomes.

People in deprived communities and groups marginalised by discrimination live shorter lives and spend a greater proportion of their lives affected by long-term conditions and disabilities. The evidence of treatment outcomes for people with frailty, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurological conditions, cancer, spinal injury, brain injury, and many more conditions, shows irrefutably that rehabilitation is as essential as medicines and surgery.

But rehab services are either unavailable, have long waiting times, or are poorly equipped to meet the needs of their communities, having been desperately under-resourced and under-staffed for decades. The impact of this is felt by those communities most in need, entrenching health inequity. Whether or not an individual accesses rehab affects not only their health but also their life chances, earning potential, likelihood of being in work, how active they are in their community, how likely they are to become socially isolated, and how happy they are.

Without rehab, people can be stuck in a downward spiral of worsening health, loss of mobility and poor mental health and multiple medication regimes. Ensuring everyone who needs rehab can access it can reverse this downward spiral, so that people cannot only survive but live healthy and active lives.

For decades rehabilitation services have been fragmented and developed in a piecemeal way. This has created a confusing system, which is hard for service users to navigate, or to know what to ask for or expect. GPs and hospital doctors are often unfamiliar with what rehabilitation is, what it can achieve, and the evidence supporting this. This means referral rates are low and when they do refer there is often poor communication with patients about what rehabilitation is and why it is an essential part of their treatment.

Rehabilitation is siloed, located in hospital department out-patients when it doesn’t need to be and there is inconsistency in what a ‘good’ level of provision and quality looks like. People who are marginalised, and those experiencing higher levels of deprivation, are more likely to be diagnosed with one or multiple long-term conditions, and this will be earlier on in their lives, with more severe conditions.

The same parts of the population with the greatest need for rehab also face the biggest barriers to access it. The sad fact set out in the CSPs 2022 report, Easing the pain: Rehabilitation, recovery, reducing health inequity, is that patients from deprived communities and marginalised groups are failed at every stage of the rehabilitation pathway.

This much we know. But there is so much we don’t know because data collection on rehabilitation needs, and provision is poor. Legally, all NHS and social care services must collect data about patients’ protected characteristics but there is a huge variation in how consistently and accurately this is done. This inconsistency is part of a wider issue of a dearth of data in community rehabilitation services.

The CSP’s Making Community Rehabilitation Data Count report, highlights the need for centralised data collection to best meet the needs of populations and to track the development of integrated rehab services.

The drive for improvement and innovation that has produced medical breakthroughs now needs to be applied to recovery and rehabilitation.

The role of integrated care systems

Rehabilitation sits at the intersections of health and social care sectors, taking place in social care, community, intermediate and acute NHS settings, and provided by multiple sectors.

The modernisation of rehabilitation can only be done by working across the whole system, rather than sector-by-sector or condition-by-condition. Through this approach, rehabilitation should be seen as a litmus test for integrated care systems.

There are many pockets of excellent rehab services for people with any long-term condition, that have designed their service to be accessible to all their communities, and take a holistic, integrated approach.

Scaling up this approach requires strategic leadership, adoption of consistent standards, the workforce to deliver and data.

The CSP has joined forces with more than 50 other professional bodies and national charities in the Community Rehabilitation Alliance (CRA) to recommend the following for ICBs:

  • Appoint Single Accountable Leads for Rehabilitation operating at a strategic level to deliver expansion, integration and redesign of services and be accountable for key performance metrics.
  • Adopt the Community Rehabilitation Best Practice Standards co-developed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy with our partners.
  • Expand and develop the rehabilitation workforce. This includes making use of the growth in registered physio numbers, but also the non-registered workforce, exercise professionals and other AHPs, nurses and doctors involved in rehabilitation.
  • Develop ICB data plans to show who is and isn’t accessing rehabilitation services, the consequences of this, the level of provision against population need, and performance on improvements.

CSP Member and Chair of the Birmingham and Solihull ICS AHP Council, Seema Gudivada, will be talking more about this approach at the panel discussion, Effectively addressing health inequalities in West Midlands (at the Birmingham ICS Delivery Forum on 18 April). Seema hopes delegates will be inspired after the event to action these recommendations to make equitable access a reality and improve outcomes for all patients across the West Midlands.

For further information or advice, please visit the CSP stand at the Birmingham ICS Delivery Forum on 18 April 2023 or email

Can ICSs unlock the value of private business to health equity?

population health in business

New insight from Public Policy Projects (PPP) outlines how businesses can support health equity through community engagement, why they should, and how integrated care systems (ICSs) can support them.

The findings go on to suggest that should these community engagement strategies be co-designed by ICS members involved in the setting of priorities for the public sector in a local area. Private businesses can align their strategies with public bodies and with one another, maximising the value of their role as community stakeholders.  

The insight piece outlines how businesses can impact the health of a community – such as by implementing healthy workplace policies, implementing inclusive local recruitment practices, partnering with community organisations, investing in community development, implementing local procurement strategies, and advocating for health equity. The piece goes on to make the business case for community investment, outlining how investing in communities can increase community loyalty and trust, improve employee morale and retention, enhance brand visibility, and increase innovation. 

The value of community engagement to businesses, the document suggests, can be further grown through collaboration with the public sector. This can support better knowledge sharing, as a number of NHS trusts already oversee effective community engagement strategies, and enable initiatives from both the public and private sector to better support oneanother and accelerate the improvement of health equity within a region.  

Improving health outcomes in the community provides the following recommendations to business leaders and policymakers: 

  • Businesses should be incentivised to invest in communities – through recruitment, procurement and outreach – and should be encouraged to partner with other businesses and public bodies to improve the quality of data and insight. 
  • ICSs, local authorities, central government and businesses should explore opportunities to utilise ICPs as a forum for private, public and third sector stakeholders in a local area to communicate, establish shared priorities and create plans of action. 
  • In order to develop stronger guidance for businesses to collaborate with ICPs, there should be a tailored section within the Maturity Matrix for ICSs discussing partnerships with private businesses. 
  • Businesses should communicate regularly with other local stakeholders, including Health and Wellbeing Boards. These communications should ensure businesses are supporting local health equity ambitions by responding to Joint Strategic Needs Assessments. 
  • Businesses and local authorities alike should seek to grow their investment into tools to understand the impact of community engagement and the health value of social investment. 
  • Further guidance on partnerships within the ICS framework should be issued – with a specific focus on enabling effective public-private collaboration. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) should collaborate with the Department of Work and Pensions to issue this guidance. 
  • ICSs and DHSC should seek to develop guidance for businesses to support local health outcomes through recruitment, procurement and outreach. This guidance should not be overly proscriptive, but should provide a clear idea of the relationship between various social determinants of health and business practices. 

Improving health outcomes in the community is the second instalment of the Population Health in Business series, which discusses the health creation value of business and suggest to business leaders and policymakers alike how they may re-envisage their roles, collaborate and deliver better outcomes.  

The roundtable that served as the evidence-base for this report was conducted in February 2023 and chaired by Professor Donna Hall CBE, Chair of New Local, Integrated Health and Care Systems Advisor for NHS England, and a woman once described as a “public service pioneer” by Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

Professor Donna Hall CBE said of the series: “The three workshops by PPP have explored the practical ways businesses can support health and wellness in their local communities. We have had engagement from a wide range of businesses, public health experts and academics which has been a rich and diverse discussion. The report provides helpful support and advice to local health and care system leaders, businesses and communities on making the most of private employers as a key part of the local infrastructure to support breed health and wellness for all.”

The PHIB roundtable series has concluded, however the final insight summary and final report are still being written and will be launched in June 2023.  

Read the full insight piece here.

For further information about the report please contact    

News, Workforce

Majority of clinicians want more training on health inequalities, says RCP report


A recent study conducted by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) finds that most clinicians feel they haven’t received enough training on health inequalities and would like more as part of their medical education.

The study, led by Dr Ash Birtles, RCP Clinical Fellow in health inequalities, looked at clinicians’ confidence in talking about and understanding health inequalities – avoidable, unfair and systematic differences in health between different groups of people.

Of the almost 1,000 clinicians surveyed, 67 per cent of respondents reported that they had not received any teaching or training in health inequalities within a training programme or as part of their degree. 31 per cent said they felt confident in their ability to talk to patients about the impact of inequality on their health, however only 26 per cent felt confident in their ability to reduce the impact of health inequalities in their medical practice.

In two self-selecting focus groups following the survey, all participants were keen to access further education on health inequalities, specifically in understanding how they could help to reduce them in practice. They felt that better understanding the needs and experiences of marginalised groups would help them in a healthcare setting. They were also interested in education on wider aspects of health and wellbeing, including the impact of sustainability and climate change on health.

Health inequalities have become a focal point of the health service in recent years. In 2021, NHS England launched a new approach to tackle health inequalities – Core20PLUS5. Its three components are: a focus on the 20 per cent of the population who constitute the lowest quintile of deprivation (the ‘Core20’); “an additional focus on local inequalities” (the ‘PLUS’); and the five key clinical areas of focus as defined in the NHS Long Term Plan (the ‘5’) – maternity care, severe mental illness, chronic respiratory disease, early cancer diagnosis and hypertension case finding.

Insights gathered during ICJ’s ICS Roadshow in autumn 2022 make clear that ICS leaders are broadly supportive of the Core20PLUS5 approach, specifically the clarity it provides to systems over their role in reducing health inequalities. The RCP study appears suggest that more nuanced and detailed training should now be made available to the frontline clinicians who are to deliver on the strategy.

When asked during qualitative interviews what the RCP could do to enhance practice in addressing health inequalities, more than half of respondents (55 per cent) said that e-learning resources would be helpful. The RCP has therefore committed to develop bitesize audiovisual educational resources on various aspects of health inequalities alongside an e-learning package.

The RCP will also be using insights from the survey to develop further educational tools and resources to support clinicians with practical ideas on reducing healthcare inequalities in their workplace. The survey was sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, who provided funding but had no input.

Dr Ash Birtles, RCP Clinical Fellow in health inequalities, and leader of the study, said: “This survey has allowed us to capture a snapshot of current practice in the UK and to engage clinicians in a meaningful dialogue about the education they feel is needed to help reduce health inequalities in practice.

“I was shocked at the lack of training many had received in health inequalities, but we’re now equipped with the insight needed to create useful and practical training in a way that clinicians feel is most helpful to them.”

The full report can be accessed here.