Expo provides a heady mix celebrating the best of the NHS

As I sit at my desk writing this blog it’s hard to believe it has been a whole year since I walked into the vast exhibition hall at Manchester Central to be confronted with the wonders of NHS Expo 2014.

We are now looking towards this year’s NHS Change Day which rolls around on March 11, while also looking forward to Expo 2015 being staged in September. Although, for me, it’s a shame the two won’t coincide as together last year they provided one of the highlights of a wonderfully positive couple of days of learning, networking and celebrating the very best of the NHS.

Having started working in my current role with the Strategic Clinical Networks the previous August, Expo 2014 was one of the first major events I had been able to attend, and I had certainly never experienced anything on that kind of scale before. Two enormous speaker stages, a plethora of makeshift seminar rooms, and countless exhibition stands, all filled with a constant rotation of chattering delegates from all walks of the NHS and beyond. It was quite a heady atmosphere.

There was a real feeling of looking to the future of healthcare with the Digital Zone showcasing newly developed apps and the Future Care Zone demonstrating how much technology is improving patient care. Innovation of all sorts was being championed, from the latest digital aids to unleashing ‘people power’ to improve health and wellbeing.

For me, Expo is all about moving onwards and upwards, improving the experience of NHS care for both patients and staff.

As an avid social media user and big advocate for the advantages of its use for making professional connections, I was perhaps most excited to see the emphasis given to virtual networking throughout the conference. Everywhere I looked people had phones or tablets in hand, Tweeting along with proceedings, sharing what they were up to with those unable to be in the room. Expo was certainly not about keeping it to yourself.

The conference also gave me the opportunity to meet some lovely people in the flesh who I had previously only chatted with online. I was honoured to meet midwifery icon Sheena Byrom, who welcomed me with a bear hug and chatted with me about social media. Sheena helped to develop the @WeMidwives community on Twitter to bring midwives together for professional chats and support.

I was able to have my picture taken with the fabulous Monkey, the cuddly character created by Helen Sadler to support children going through medical treatment, and who now has a host of resources available for children, families and schools.

I was most awestruck by the presence of the astounding Dr Kate Granger of ‘Hello My Name Is’ fame, who presented the inaugural Kate Granger Awards recognising the achievements of individuals and teams providing excellent compassionate care. The speaker stage was packed to the rafters for this emotional ceremony and only the hardest of hearts would fail to be moved by the inspirational stories being told, not the least of which being Kate’s herself.

In amongst the technology and innovation were stark reminders of the real reason we were all there – to make things better for the people who rely on us to provide the best services we can.

I think as we head through this year’s Change Day and look towards Expo 2015, we all need to remember what our focus should be – providing excellent care for our patients and service users – but at the same time ensuring NHS staff feel supported to provide this care.

Morale boosting events like Change Day and Expo are crucially important but so is the day-to-day experience of the whole workforce if our NHS is to continue to innovate, empower and be truly sustainable.

  • For more information about Innovation Expo 2015 go to: where you can register and keep up to date with latest programme developments and activities, speaker announcements and social and networking opportunities.
  • Our event partners are Dods, for all commercial enquires please contact them on 020 7593 5604.
  • Keep following all the post event news and conversation on Twitter @NHSExpo or through #Expo15NHS.
  • Follow Jenny Hicken on Twitter @GreatNorthMum
Jenny Hicken

Jenny Hicken is a Network Delivery Facilitator in the Northern England Clinical Networks, and is part of the Mental Health and Dementia Network team.

She is currently working on projects addressing the wellbeing of vulnerable groups, and represents the Network team on the North East and North Cumbria ICS Zero Suicide Ambition Steering Group. She also keeps a hand in with the Maternity Network team, with whom she has worked closely on a number of pieces of work.

Jenny lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband and two young sons, and has worked in the NHS since 2009.