The first Williams Project of 2014 was presented by Mrs Helen Dixon, a senior civil servant from the Department of Health. She spoke to both branches of the WP, focusing on the changes in the NHS from its founding principles to the current challenges. The audience, many of whom were aspiring medics, were immediately greeted with the complexity of the organisation when shown a diagram of its interlocking components. After viewing the astounding figures that represented the number of patient episodes and visits per year we heard how the media, the ageing population and the obesity crisis are just some of the problems for the NHS in the future. The audience went on to discover how politicians, while generally adhering to Bevan’s founding principles, pose challenges to the NHS when rapidly introducing new policies to please the electorate, sometimes resulting in longer term strategies not being fully implemented.
Mrs Dixon then explained the changes which were being introduced after the Mid-Staffordshire scandal, including the publishing of staffing levels on wards and better access to complaint pathways. Finally, a problem was presented to us emphasising the difficult job of NHS managers; no one wants services to be cut but resources are finite. In the end, we chose to replace face-to-face GP consultations with telephone versions in order to prevent a ward from closing. Throughout, Mrs Dixon held the audience fully engaged and shed much light on the service we all rely on yet know very little about.