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Evidence 2010-Transforming healthcare. Morning thoughts

Ami Banerjee
Last edited 1st November 2010

Even as I was coming up down to London on the train from Birmingham, medical evidence was all over the news, with "alcohol more harmful than heroin". Evidence about healthcare is of interest to all sectors of society but we don't often get everybody in one room talking about it. For 2 days at BMA House in London, health professionals, researchers, information scientists and policymakers from all over the world are debating the what, where, how and why of evidence in healthcare in the first conference of its kind. Evidence 2010 is jointly organised by the CEBM and the British Medical Journal.

After Fiona Godlee, BMJ Editor, had welcomed the international audience, Carl Heneghan, Director of the CEBM, referred to "I don't know" as the three most important words we were not taught at medical school, in his opening remarks. Jim Easton, NHS Director of Improvement and Efficiency, described cost as an ethical consideration which every healthcare system was facing in the current financial climate. The difficulty is matching increased quality with cost reduction, he noted, and this is going to be the holy grail across all healthcare systems.Customers and consumers are taken into account much more in other industries outside of healthcare, and this culture to include patients has yet to permeate the NHS. Easton called for a "hybrid vigour" across healthcare, policymakers and patients to move policy and evidence in the right direction. Sir Muir Gray, Chief Knowledge Officer of the NHS, reminded us that "irritation" and "stimulation" had been key drivers for change in healthcare, the former often more successful than the latter. He called for a change in culture and in the language of evidence-based healthcare.

In a breakout session about evidence-based policy. Dan Lasserson from Oxford, spoke of the exponential rise in Medline citations in policy documents in the UK in the last 2 decades. but in the end, warned that "values will always be more influential than evidence". Before lunch, Tim Wilson, a healthcare consultant, spoke of the challenge of complexity in translation of evidence into policy. Plenty of food for thought and more to come in the afternoon....

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