Leila Williams - NHS-TU

The chief executive of the NHS organisation championing positive change in the health service has told delegates at a major conference that it is personal experience that drives her passion for reducing variation in care.

In her keynote speech at Health Plus Care 2017, Europe’s largest integrated health and social care event, Leila Williams, who leads the NHS Transformation Unit, an independent, not-for profit, NHS-owned consultancy, said that working on her first transformation project gave her a first insight into the disparities in acute service provision.

Leila said: “Seventeen years ago, when I returned from maternity leave I worked on a children’s health project that showed me that, depending where you lived, your treatment could be different. Variation in care wasn’t known then by anyone other than clinicians, but as a new mother thinking of my daughter’s potential future health needs, it made a huge impact on me.

“Over the years we have all become aware that this situation exists and how it will persist if it is not consistently tackled. The health and care system doesn’t work optimally and variations in care can affect our own family and friends. That’s why we do acute transformation and why we are seeking to change things and help the NHS provide the best care possible for all.”

Leila also explained that the NHS Transformation Unit’s experience in supporting commissioners and providers to reduce these variations in Greater Manchester was extensive and that putting patients and communities at the heart of the process is key.

Its major redesign projects include the innovative Healthier Together programme, which has been a starting point for further transformation of acute services in Greater Manchester; Making it Better, changing services for babies, children, young people and families; Healthy Futures, Action 4 Health; a new health deal for Trafford; Specialist Cancer Surgery; and Adult Major Trauma.

Now the NHS Transformation Unit, as part of health and social care reform in the city region, has secured a commission to support the standardisation of acute and specialised care.

Leila added: “The key to successful service redesign is building relationships and nurturing them. This means closer partnership working with a range of stakeholders, including local authorities, and delivering local integrated services that ensure more people are cared for in their communities. This also means hospitals working together as part of single services.

“Crucially, any service reconfiguration has to have the right approach to involving and engaging with patients and carers. Our experience has taught us that we must involve patients in decisions about their care. We all want an improved health service and patients can be the champions of change in the NHS.”