It’s time to think differently

Time to Think Differently is a new programme of work aimed at stimulating debate about the changes needed for the NHS and social care to meet the challenges of the future. We hope to generate new thinking about innovative ways of delivering high-quality care, and support health and social care leaders in their decision-making.

The immediate pressures faced by staff working in health and social care are intense. The disruption of organisational change and restructuring means many are working in new roles, in new organisations, with new responsibilities that are still far from clear. Providers are feeling the pressure as efficiency savings in the NHS and local authority funding cuts begin to bite. It may seem odd in this context to challenge people to think about the medium to long-term. But this is vital if we are to rise to the enormous challenges we face.

Our analysis of future trends highlights the key factors that will drive change in health and social care in future. It makes clear the likely scale and timing of some of these factors including demographic pressures, the shifting burden of disease and disability, the impact of individual behaviours and public attitudes, and changes to the workforce. It is designed to help leaders think strategically about future services and make the right decisions.

In the short to medium-term, changes in the configuration of services present real opportunities to design services that will be fit for the future. In the longer term, new thinking is needed about new models of care and how they can be delivered.

To ensure high quality care for all, we need to harness the ideas and energy of everyone working in health and social care. The Time to Think Differently website will be a focus for debate: as well as our analysis of the trends driving change, the site will include other resources including regular blogs from guest contributors, new publications, video and other content.

This work isn’t just about gathering ideas and examples of innovation, important though this is, it is about trying to generate well informed discussion about some of the toughest, most uncomfortable and long standing questions we need to address - questions about the funding of health and social care, how professional roles need to change, how much responsibility we should take for our own health, and how to develop models of care driven by patient need and preference, not how we have run services in the past.

Over the next few months, we will be inviting different people to share their views with us. We hope you will join in the debate and share your ideas and experiences of leading and delivering change. We will use these contributions to inform our thinking about how the delivery of health and social care needs to change we will publish our ideas for the future in 2013.

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