Helping the NHS work smarter and harder

A three day training event for senior health executives in the UK has been run by the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, with outstanding results.

The event – the first of its kind in the UK – focused on helping senior health executives improve quality and productivity by making better use of management data and research evidence.

The University of York is a global leader in evidence-informed health and healthcare, and excels at health economics and health services research. Its work is often used to inform high-level decisions made by national and international health policy makers working in central government. The value of this event was its focus on applying the University’s analytical, evidence-informed approach to ‘ground level’ decisions made by senior executives who manage hospitals and other local organisations that deliver services to patients.

Real-world implications

This event was particularly important for three key reasons:

  1. Austerity: Following a decade of substantial funding growth, the current spending slow-down coupled with continued cost inflation means that the NHS needs to tighten its belts and make more intelligent, evidence-informed spending decisions.
  2. Markets: The introduction of competition within the NHS market means it is necessary to prove that care is delivered to patients efficiently, with high quality and assured safety.
  3. Data availability: NHS is data-rich and new kinds of data are emerging which focus on quality and outcomes, rather than activity and outputs.

Innovative delivery

To encourage delegates to consider the implications for their own areas of work, they participated in Dragons’ Den-style workshops. Each delegate pitched an idea for improving quality and productivity within the NHS, and a panel of experts decided whether to invest in their ideas. Surprisingly, the NHS attendees often found the University academics tougher to please than the boards of their own organisations!

Excellent results

The feedback from the event has shown its place as a UK-leading training event. One delegate commented that ‘this is the first time I’ve seen convincing evidence that competition in the NHS actually works’, and another identified the event as ‘mind-blowing’. After attending the Forum, another delegate concluded: ‘It’s clear that the NHS is wasting a lot of time, energy and hard cash on poorly evidenced activities.’

Richard Cookson, Director of the Health Strategy Forum, commented: “It’s leading edge academic work that senior health executives don't usually see, but that has immediate practical implications. It was a real privilege for me to interact with health executives who bring so much insight and experience to the Forum, and to be supported by such an enthusiastic and committed team of senior academic colleagues from different parts of the University."

“This is a really important event and will become more so as the financial squeeze tightens”
Martin Marshall,
Clinical Director and Director of Research and Development,
The Health Foundation

Further information about the event is available at