My mission statement

The times we are working in now need a great deal of accelerated change and there must be no negotiating that down. So my mission statement for this part of my consultancy career is to be clear that there needs to be and will be a lot of change from the work that I do with individuals and organisations and if organisations don’t want that, then it is probably best to go somewhere else.

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Hong Kong, May day weekend – Saturday

Filed Under (China, Health Policy, Mexican 'flu, Public Health, SARS, Speaking) by Paul on 02-05-2009

Every year – well nearly every year- Hong Kong Hospital Authority has a really good Conference about the developments in health and health care. Two years ago I was asked to give the keynote opening address on the progress in health care reform in the English NHS. I have a 5 year relationship with Hong Kong that amongst other things has given me an honorary relationship as the Adjunct Professor of Public Health at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. So two years ago I was both pleased and excited to start this conference off.

But from the very beginning of the Conference there was something different about what it meant to the people in the hall. Sure there were honoured guests and people from various other countries, but it was clear from the first word that the real aim of the conference is to give the staff of the Hospital Authority the opportunity to talk with each other and learn about the past years activities and the next years hopes. Hong Kong has 7 and a half million people  so the hospital authority runs a complex set of health acre institutions and as with most large and complex organisations peoples don’t get a chance to meet.

So the conference always starts with a clear lead from the Chief Executive about how they did last year and how they plan to do next year, Its an organisation talking and listening to itself and outsiders like me sprinkle it with a little difference but are Not what the whole thing is about. In fact as I sat in the audience looking at the thousands there is was clear that they were politely interested in what we had to say but very interested in learning from their colleagues

The conference rooms are surrounded by several hundred wall posters. Each of them does not contain a slogan but is a report on a scientific experiment. What was the hypothesis, what was the method of enquiry what were the results and what are the implications. Each banner is  a report on an experiment by a group of medical staff. ‘We felt that if we turned a bed ridden patients twice as often in the night they would get less bed sores’ and each experiment had some scientific results.

At the end of the conference some recognition was given to those experiments judged the best and most important. Indeed some people came just to look at the wall posters and learn from each other.

This was a good idea for a conference – not that we outside speakers were irrelevant but that we had our place.

So when I was invited back this year to give two talks- one on the reconfiguration processes in London and the other on change in the NHS in England, I was happy to go especially as Ara Darzi, Cyril Chantler and Mike Richards were also talking at the conference. There was a good chance of both learning from each other but more so watching the health professionals of Hong Kong learn from themselves.

So I got here early on Friday afternoon May 1st – a good day to be in China and then over our first evening a vesting Mexican was found to have Mexican flu confirmed and the conference was called off.

The Hospital Authority felt it had more important things go do than talk and listen they may have to spend Monday and Tuesday doing things and not talking about them.

So my main activity now stops being fine tuning my talks and becomes watching Hong Kong take the possibility of a pandemic very seriously.

I am staying with Professor Sian Griffiths who is the head of the school of public health at the Chinese University (Sian was  the President of the Faculty of Public Health in England when I was a special adviser to John Reid then Secretary of State for Health and did brilliant work representing public health into the Government White Paper Choosing Health in 2004).

It is great to see a part of a university within a few hours start to work out what specific role can they play in helping Hong Kong understand and work through a real public health crisis. Within a few hours she and her staff have a list of projects to carry out and from first thing Monday morning they will start to gather data on what the public know about and think about what is happening to their health.

Of course this may be a false alarm with no contagion but six years ago Hong Kong and much of the world was very frightened by the SARS crisis. They are not going to be as disorganised again and its great to see the Public Health School of the Chinese University sector being so quickly prepared to do real things to ensure the health of the public.

I will keep readers in touch with events  .

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