I attended the meeting on behalf of President Aileen Clarke in an effort to advance linkages between Health Services Research UK (HSRUK) and SSM. This is supported by Prof Naomi Fullop (Chair of HSRUK), Prof Nick Mays and Mr John De Pury (HSRUK Executive) and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed at a HSRUK Board meeting on July 12th. We feel that the linkages between both societies will be of mutual benefit and that a one-day joint meeting will be a significant step towards bringing this forward. I have since spoken to John De Pury who would welcome involvement from SSM members to help organize a joint meeting next year.
The conference was fascinating and I was particularly stuck by the diverse backgrounds of the Collaboration for Leadership and Applied Health Research and Care (CLARHC) members from engineers to applied mathematicians and PPIs, bringing their perspectives to HSR research design.
Perhaps the highlight of Day 1 was the analysis of policy provided by Chris Whitty, Government Policy Advisor who stressed the importance of “borrowing” from other disciplines via interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary working. He suggested that HSR should concentrate on developing synthesis of current research.
Other interesting insights from day 1 were from Gerald Wistow from LSE -based on the lack of integration of health and social services, which have developed in parallel. In his view there needs to be a reframing of the purpose of integration which sees integration as not an end in itself but rather a means to facilitate delivery of an anticipatory health system alongside agendas like social isolation and poverty. Hence managing immediate demands on health services (individual) with addressing root causes (population) is the desired approach to integration.
On Day 2 Mary Dixon-Woods from University of Cambridge spoke of the need to use research wisely to get to a better place in Quality Assurance. There is too much reliance on lagging indicators rather than real-time data and ‘soft’ intelligence is needed in addition to measurement data. Among the many points raised was the need to be aware of having too may priorities ‘priority thicket’ and too many masters leading to distraction, frustration and loss of focus. She (like Chris Whitty above) also spoke of the need to use distributed expertise.
In the afternoon of Day 2, Anita Charlesworth Director of Research and Economics at The Health Foundation, spoke on the impact of lower growth on the planned budget, which she expected to decrease from 2% to 1.5%, with Brexit. This will impact on NHS budgets. If budgetary growth slows the money being paid to EU will be more than cancelled by negative economic consequences of leaving the EU.
A more hopeful message was given by Johann Hansen of Nivel (Netherlands Institute of HSR). He spoke of the development of ERA- NETs (European Research Area Networks) in relation to HSR. In the Work Programme 2014-2015 of Horizon 2020, there are more than 20 ERA-NET Cofund actions. ERA-NET in HSR are country led including being led by non-EU partners. Non-EU partners can be proposal participants and coordinators (unlike H2020).
In summary there was much of interest to SSM members at the HSRUK symposium and a joint one-day conference would be of mutual benefit. I made many valuable and useful encounters and attempted to promote SSM at each opportunity during what was a fruitful and enjoyable learning experience.
SSM External Relations Lead
Photos courtesy of HSRUK