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Nicholson: Transformation of elderly care is essential

Caring for patients with dementia on acute hospital wards is “really difficult”, the Chief Executive of the NHS Sir David Nicholson has admitted.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation's annual conference in Manchester last week (21 June), Nicholson said a change in the way NHS services are provided is the only solution to the efficiency challenge facing the service.

He praised the compassion and work of nurses but said a transformation of services is essential to make it easier to care for the vulnerable.

Nicholson called upon politicians to help sell the need for change to the wider public.

He praised former Health Minister and now Chair of the Health Select Committee Stephen Dorrell for quoting Enoch Powell's ground-breaking Watertower speech at the conference and said now is the time for another like it.

“In lots of ways, [the watertower speech] is the sort of speech we need our politicians to be making at the moment,” said Nicholson.

“It is in a sense being honest with the public about the nature and scale of change that is required in order to live in a world where we get great outcomes for our patients, universally available but in the resources we have.”

He told a packed conference hall that the “challenging” financial position of the NHS gives the “burning platform” to move away from the default care position of hospital beds.

However, Lansley, who also spoke at the event, distanced the role of politicians from leading service change in the NHS.

He said the leaderships of the NHS should come from within the service itself and not be “imposed from outside”.

“The relationship of politicians to the NHS should be one of support not interference,” he said.

“When it comes to service change politicians shouldn't be the ones to tell the NHS or the public what the best shape of their local services should be anymore than there should be a top down managerial instruction to the NHS about how they should work.”