The Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed so many of the great things that I believe about my adopted country – Wales. We are acting as a community to protect and help one another. Our NHS and care services provided by local government and the third sector are second to none.

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As Dr Rhodri Griffiths' recent blog confirms, the resulting supply challenge is clearly an opportunity to learn how industry and the care sector can work together in new ways. If you’re interested in this, try to catch up on our recent online event PPE and Getting it Right!  

Maximise the benefits of technology and innovation

The pandemic also confirms that the authors of the 2018 Report of the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales were right. We can and must innovate. That report said we need to “maximise the benefits of technology and innovation to pursue the Quadruple Aim and deliver more effective and efficient care”. This change requires “the right culture, behaviours and leadership to embrace innovation, embed collaboration and support prudent risk-taking”.

Of course, the report was not addressing Covid-19 but how the NHS and Social Care services should change to provide new solutions for people’s needs. But the lessons are shared. If we can innovate and work more collaboratively for the pandemic, we can strengthen our innovation habit.

Why do we need to learn?

An American paediatrician, Paul Batalden, is credited with first saying “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”*. In our situation, if we are not sufficiently innovative, we need to look at the system in which we work to understand why that is the case. He might ask, how should we change our approach to prudent risk-taking, the opportunities for front-line practitioners to collaborate with other sectors, our culture, behaviour and leadership in order to encourage innovation? And I am sure he would include everyone in the system within those questions.

Needs and methods of innovators

Just as industry and academia need to learn more about working with the NHS and care sector, so the NHS will need to learn how to accommodate the needs and methods of innovators It is likely there are many answers, they will not always be easy. They may even be uncomfortable, forcing us to change some of our customs and entrenched ways of working. We may learn that our mental model for what an innovative system looks like are too simplistic.

It is good to be writing to old friends and new colleagues across Wales as I start a year of work with Life Sciences Hub Wales to look at how we can learn from our own experience, from practice elsewhere and from research how we can maximise the role of innovation in the services we provide.

Everyone playing their part

With the Life Sciences Hub Wales expertise and the many examples of innovative partnership underway, we are ideally placed to start to draw those lessons. The intention is to work with a range of partners and offer practical tools to organisations and individuals who are trying to play their part and deliver for patients.

It has taken the NHS and its many partners a long time to develop our systems and the way we work. We have been trained and developed procedures over the last 60 years to create what we have, so changing will be a challenge for us all even if we "get" the need to change. I was taught that successful change requires three ingredients: real will, ideas and effective execution. The visible commitment of our health and care staff set in the current crisis is creating an unprecedented will to succeed. The ideas for change are in plentiful supply. Just look at the Life Sciences Hub Wales’s success stories , the NHS Wales Awards or the Bevan Exemplars if you need reminding.

Executing the method!

It is the execution where we need method and help. We need to be clear on how we make this happen. If it was easy, it would be happening already, and the Parliamentary Review would not have set the challenge. I look forward to working with you to promulgate the learning that already exists and to develop further solutions. If you would like to comment or continue the discussion please contact me via

References - *see see Berwick DM. 1996 A primer on leading the improvement of systems. Brit Med J; 312:619–22.