The NHS Youth Forum delivered a presentation at the NHS ConfedExpo on June 15th in Liverpool. This is a flagship event for the NHS where the NHS Confederation, NHS England and NHS Improvement unite healthcare leaders and their teams at one of the most significant events in 2022.
Muhammed delivered a presentation at the NHS ConfedExpo and we’re excited to share his blog with you. In the picture above Muhammed is talking with Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England.
As I sat on the train to Liverpool I reflected on the past year. It was my first time on the NHS Youth Forum and it had been a bit of a rollercoaster. There was so much to learn and understand and covid meant that everything was remote. I was travelling to the NHS Confederation Expo and this was in many ways the pinnacle of everything we had done. We had heard from some amazing senior leaders from the NHS during the year, some of whom would be speaking today. Our project work would be shared with an audience of NHS staff who would hopefully find the findings helpful and useful in improving care for children and young people. Also, this was the first time I would meet my team in person so I was quite excited.
Walking from Lime Street station to the conference venue in the docks took about 20 minutes and became increasingly pleasant as the busy roads and traffic gave way to the water and the sound of seagulls overhead. The conference venue is set on the waterfront amongst art galleries and museums celebrating the area’s maritime history. Arriving at the conference we were greeted by quite a spectacle. A stream of people flowed into the building with a long queue that stretched out and round to the other side. The backdrop was the grey water of the River Mersey which on this bright day was quite breathtaking.
Eventually, I got inside and received a lanyard for my badge which was printed by a machine within a few seconds. I found a quiet area on the first floor to spend a few minutes working out what I was going to say. Unfortunately that morning I had woken up with really bad hay fever which started up again. This wasn’t exactly ideal as I was continuously sniffing and disturbing the people around me. So I made my way down to the ground floor where I had arranged to meet Rich, who was one of the people designated to look after us.
There is only one word to describe the Expo and that is massive. I had received a map to find my way around but hadn’t appreciated the size of the exhibition. The Academic Health Sciences Network had a huge area with lots of stands. Health Education England were here as were lots of private companies offering a range of services ranging from business intelligence and analytics to population health management. I was really impressed by how much time and effort must have gone into designing, building and setting everything up. What was also intriguing was that almost all of these stands had goodies on display. Branded pens, writing pads and mouse mats sat alongside an assortment of sweets and multicoloured truffles. After a while, I made the useful discovery that these were all free.
When the others arrived we all converged in the NHS England stand that was located centrally. We swapped travel escapades and remarked how different everyone looked away from the screen. Eventually, we got down to business and started rehearsals. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. I wasn’t hungry so used the time to visit some more stands and had an interesting chat with someone from the Zero Suicide Alliance.
Very soon it was time for our session. There were a lot more people than I expected and all the seats were taken. Many people stood on the sides and at the back. The nerves kicked in, the butterflies started and I worried that the people at the front would be able to hear the growling of my empty stomach. But when I stood up with Elia to introduce the session everything fell into place. Josh and Anna spoke about the findings from our Digital Mental Health Project. They handed the mics over to Aishah, Victor and Ray, who discussed Health Inequalities. The last project to feature was Widening Access which was covered by Jamie-Lee. The session was rounded off with Haris and Aishah speaking about our future plans.
Our presentation finished and there was a relief and smiles all round, but the best was yet to come. It turned out that Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England had listened to our presentation and wanted to meet us. She was in a smart dark suit, had short blond hair and wore a beautiful smile that she shared with each of us. She shook hands with us and spoke to us individually asking about our work with the NHS Youth Forum. I mentioned my interest in the connection between health, nature and culture and she was genuinely interested in how this could translate into an improved patient experience. We ended with the obligatory group selfie to feed the social media engines.
Overall this was a fantastic, memorable experience that I really enjoyed. In fact, it completely changed my whole view of the NHS. It went from being something intractable and complex to something more tangible and real. I learned that the NHS is essentially people organised into hundreds of different groups, networks and organisations who want to make a difference. I also realised that this is a place where I can grow and that my voice matters; that people in leadership positions are not only willing to listen but are genuinely interested in my views. I walked away from the conference in Liverpool humbled but with a renewed energy to work with the NHS Youth Forum next year and do my best to represent the views and hopes of young people.