The best conference I have ever been to!

“The best conference I have ever been to.” Professor Peter Bradley, Public Health Wales

APACOne of the most inspiring speakers of this year’s APAC (Asia Pacific) Forum on ‘Leading Healthcare Transformation’ was Dr Dave ‘Dafydd’ Williams from Canada. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to hear an astronaut, aquanaut and Chief Executive who’s the same person.

It was great hearing about his missions into space – but actually what was more interesting was his thoughts on what made great teams. He reflected on more than one occasion that it was a great attitude and team spirit, which led to success.

And I have to say that it was a great team effort, which delivered the third APAC Forum – this time, bigger than last year – with over 1,500 delegates attending from 14 countries in Melbourne. The work of our ‘red shirts’ was outstanding – always available and responsive to the needs of delegates, demonstrating an amazing attitude.

Of course, Dave Williams wasn’t the only speaker at APAC. This year, over 70 experts from around the world, including staff from Counties, shared their expertise on work that has made an enormous difference to patients and the public in their countries.

However, from talking to people who attended, many told me the greatest value in the Forum was networking; having the opportunity to share challenges and also seek solutions together.

The three days in Melbourne really did emphasise the importance of taking an ‘all teach, all learn’ approach to sharing, learning and working together. It’s something I’m glad to say we are getting increasingly better at within Counties.

In fact, this was demonstrated at the Forum, in the way that so many Counties projects were showcased, with a lot of international interest in taking and applying the learning in other countries.

This year’s event had four main messages, which, whilst they applied to an Asia Pacific audience, can also be applied to us here, in Counties:

  • We must scale up the focus on improvement. There is already great work taking place across the organisation, but we can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal. If we know something works, we must ensure its scaled up as quickly as possible.
  • We must be transformational leaders. I believe that’s a message for everyone. We know the increasing pressures and challenges on our health systems and we need to bring about the transformation in our services that’s needed.
  • We must make the frontline our focus. If you read my blog regularly, you will know that I firmly believe that our frontline staff need to be supported and enabled to deliver the best services possible. We also need great managers who support our staff to do this.
  • We must continue to work together. Over the last three years, the Forum has focussed on the fact that ‘we are stronger together than we are apart’. It’s true for us here at Counties – our ability to work and support one another as we provide care for the people of South Auckland.

I want to say a special thank you to the staff at Counties (including the Ko Awatea team) who delivered this year’s Forum – it has quickly become a key event for many in New Zealand and throughout Asia Pacific.

However, I want to finish where I started, with Dr Dave ‘Dafydd’ Williams. He described all the delegates as ‘difference makers’ – as they would be returning to their countries and organisations to make a difference in their communities and areas of work.

It’s a term that could as easily be applied to the 6,000 people who work for Counties. If you work for us, you’re a ‘difference maker’ – impacting the lives of those who pass through our doors and the people you work with. Thank you – and that’s not just from me, but an astronaut and aquanaut!

If you’d like to catch up on what went on at this year’s APAC, Ko Awatea will be organising some taster sessions – further details will be available soon.



Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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