Health leadership congress addressed change readiness

  • Helen Bevan from UK’s National Health Service addresses a plenary session

Helen Bevan from UK’s National Health Service addresses a plenary session. Photo: ACHSM

The annual Asia-Pacific health leadership congress, jointly organised by the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM) and the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) is an important reference on the calendar of health service managers across Australia and beyond. This year’s congress, held on 27 – 29 September in Sydney, welcomed around 450 delegates. A renewed partnership with the ACHS this year strengthened the congress’s coverage to include ACHS member organisations that value quality and safety compliance.

This year, the congress welcomed some high-quality, high-profile speakers, such as Helen Bevan, leading light on change management and adaptability from the National Health Service (NHS) England Horizons team. Helen, Horizons' Chief Transformation Officer, gripped her audience with the passion she has come to be known for and inspired delegates to think beyond convention if positive, long-lasting change is what they wanted to start – very much in keeping with the congress theme of 'The winds of change – adjust your sails'.

Some other keynote presenters included: Scott Slotterback, who spoke about the need for health services to incorporate more climate-friendly approaches; Lesley Dwyer, an Australian success story in the United Kingdom who has turned around the formerly fledgling Medway NHS Foundation Trust; and Catherine Stoddart, CEO of the Northern Territory Department of Health, who brought a fresh perspective on the unique challenges faced by the Top End's health system.

Another successful element of the congress was the plethora of concurrent sessions and implementation intensives. These were very popular as they provided an opportunity for speakers to tell stories of achievements in their areas of research and practice, and to explain, at a more granular level, how they overcame their challenges. Topics covered in the 23 sessions ranged across leadership, quality and safety, culture of excellence, promoting system change, better GP service access through technology, big data and machine learning, and at-risk patients.

This year's program included a stream dedicated to those whose work focuses on healthcare design and infrastructure. In a first, we partnered with the International Union of Architects Public Health Group for sessions on strategic asset planning, public/private partnerships, innovative infrastructure design, and community engagement.

The congress program also featured a number of sessions focusing on regional, rural and remote health, such as Making Aboriginal health everyone’s business – Aboriginal leadership in WA Health, by Russell Simpson of the WA Country Health Service, or Getting the sails to catch the wind while juggling: what’s needed from health service managers  in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by Barbara Schmidt.

 A drawcard of the congress is its ability to bring together under the same roof leading lights in health care management, leadership, innovation, political decision-makers at the highest level, inspirational figures from outside the health care sector (such as media personalities Stan Grant and Ita Buttrose), private providers of solutions relevant to health care decision-makers, and hundreds of delegates from around the world.

It was fitting to welcome NT Health’s CEO Catherine Stoddart as a keynote speaker this year, considering that the next congress is confirmed to take place on 19 – 21 September 2018 in Darwin. The ACHSM NT branch was recently reactivated and has already run a well-attended event. The ACHSM’s Regional, Rural and Remote Special Interest Group, which identifies and progresses activities for College members and prospective members who work in regional, rural and remote areas is especially significant in Australia’s Top End.

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