NHS Expo & Testbeds – another view

This year this editor went to NHS Expo in Manchester primarily to advise a US company, Humetrix, over the two day period, so got to see proceedings through a different lens.

Overall the event seemed to be much better attended than last year, in spite of the proximity to the Bank Holiday. Whereas last year the Future Care Zone was virtually deserted by both exhibitors and visitors, this year’s New Care Models Zone was buzzing. The Digital Zone was a particular attraction with some excellent talks, and the opportunity to meet many key people working in this area.

On the stage, the politicians painted their visions and senior health & care directors explained how these were to become a reality. This week’s NHS Networks blog, a perennial favourite of this editor, commenting on comparative performances, described Tim Kelsey as “more digital even than Mr Hunt but less binary”(reminiscent of Iain Banks’ description of lawyer LL Blawke in The Crow Road as “pencil-thin and nearly as leaden”). Of particular concern to this editor’s interests was the response to Jeremy Hunt’s commitment to enabling everyone to be able to access their detailed medical record in 2016, as Humetrix demonstrated an app that did this two years ago, at Tim Kelsey’s request, which is already live in the US.

One aspect of the exhibition that particularly appealed was the growth in interconnectivity with GPSoCs  – both Black Pear Software and Guru had impressive stands. Two free eLearning packages to cover mental disability in young people and physical disability also seemed very good, and timely.  In contrast to last year, beds with dummies in were absent.

The second day was spent in the ‘Testbeds’ event in Manchester Town Hall, in an astonishingly beautiful hall with 12 Ford Maddox Brown murals of key moments in Manchester’s history. Perhaps the mural that was closest to the events of the day was the picture of John Kay, inventor of the flying shuttle, being bundled out of his house as rioters fearful of their jobs broke in. The 21st century equivalent could be the DH officials who explained that private sector companies working for testbed competition winners would not be allowed to make a profit, or use subcontractors, and would be expected to employ auditors at their own cost to confirm this. Adding the recognition that the DH would inevitably be requiring regular reporting and interference, this caused much gnashing of teeth, directed at said officials (although matters never reached the point where there was a need for them to be bundled out of the hall). Indeed one prominent supplier’s CEO even commented that the only reason he was there was to identify those who were not going to win, in order to do profitable business.

Clearly the DH & NHS will need to have a rethink over their testbed programme if they want it to be successful.


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