Sustainable Health and Social Care Research Summit

Rachel Stancliffe's picture

This event built on a scoping review of research needs conducted by The King's Fund and funded by the National Institute for Health Research and SCIE.  Senior people with backgrounds in funding, commissioning and co-ordinating research participated in a one-day summit to explore how we can deliver more sustainable, effective and affordable models of health and social care.

The day started with a breakfast workshop from summit sponsors Phillips on the evaluation of an energy efficient lighting scheme. The Phillips team took a “Triple Bottom Line” approach and demonstrated that while the economic and social benefits are easy to justify, there were also psychological benefits of good lighting to both patients and staff.

The first formal session of the day concerned “Sustainability as a core part of the quality agenda” and featured Sir Andy Haines on “Climate change and the health co-benefits of the low carbon economy” and Sir Muir Gray discussing “Transforming health care for a sustainable future – the challenge of delivering high value care”.

Another lively break was followed by Professor John Appleby, Chief Economist, The King's Fund, giving an overview of the research agenda. The participants were then split into 5 groups to discuss “ Where are the biggest needs and opportunities to develop a collaborative research base?” The five groups were:

  • Models of care and clinical innovation
  • Technologies and facilities
  • Individual and organisational behaviours
  • Systems and policies at the national level
  • Assessing the scale of the challenge

Session three of the day was titled “Towards a collaborative research strategy” and was introduced by 3 short papers:

  1. Towards a whole system approach to fair and sustainable health by Sonia Roschnik, Operational Director, NHS Sustainable Development Unit;
  2. Beyond a sustainable infrastructure: what we need to know by Phil Nedin, Director, Global Healthcare Business Leader, Arup;
  3. Collaborative research principles by Professor John Newton, Director of Public Health and Acting Chief Knowledge Officer, NHS South of England (Central).

The discussion groups then discussed “Proposals for collaborative action” and Session four: Collaborative next steps aimed both to sum up these options for moving forward and to prioritise these to focus effort. Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-chief, BMJ chaired this last session, which included a panel discussion: How do we establish a coherent and collaborative process for basing future policy and practice in this area on good evidence? 

It was agreed that a Research strategy was needed that everyone in the field could use to clarify a common framework. One step agreed to take this forward was to have a regular meeting.There were some positive inputs from research councils and other research funding bodies with clarification of the ways in which this kind of research could be funded.  Both NIHR and Wellcome pointed out funding streams in this area. However, our experience has been that it is very difficult in practice to get money for research into some of the questions we need answered, and at the other end of the line to get the research published if we have got it funded.  The new innovations are likely not just to be technical fixes but about ways of doing things differently and the new models for doing healthcare should integrate clinicians and researchers in action learning – which does not necessarily fit the funders’ pigeon-holes of either research or practical implementation. 

Anthony Costello asked people at the summit to rank themselves 1 to 5 on how urgent they thought climate change was and whether we had any chance of stopping it in time to avert mass disaster: most in the room were 4 with some either 3 or 5 and given this agreement on the urgency of the problem we can only hope that all the people in the room act with this much urgency to take forward solutions in commissioning, funding and doing research.

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