After a three year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives from the AHSN NENC team were delighted to attend the recent NHS Confed Expo 2022 in Liverpool.

Our Associate Director Jody Nichols went along and told us about her experiences at one of the most highly anticipated events in health and social care in 2022.

The excitement of NHS Confed Expo 22 had been building this year and this was a bit more than normal. The last time we were at Confed was 2019 and a lot has changed in the NHS in that time.

I was double checking all of the important things – could I still fit in my conference suitable clothes, did I have smart but comfortable flat shoes (knowing full well I would be on my feet all day), and what would I wear for the evening nights out?! But clothes and shoes aside, this year’s Confed was more important than ever.

It was about two clear things. Firstly showcasing AHSN NENC as a trailblazer and telling delegates about our work supporting innovators with the innovation pathway and development of the collaborative eco system. But also showcasing Clinical Digital Resource Collaborative (CDRC), an innovation we have nurtured over the last four years.

Confed this year marked a significant milestone in CDRC’s development journey. It is growing at pace and I wanted to let people know how to join us. CDRC is a NENC grown innovation that supports primary care clinicians to deliver patient care.

I had everything ready – a CDRC branded stand, leaflets, lanyards, business cards, bags, pens, note pads – and I was ready to tell the world what we do and to celebrate waving our CDRC flag. What I very quickly realised on the first day is that it is easy to ‘sell’ something you’re proud of.

I had some great conversations with delegates from around England including trusts, clinicians, NICE, NHSE, ICS leaders, academics, pharmaceutical companies, and multiple AHSNs, many of which have been in touch since – hopefully the start of a pipeline of work.

I remember saying to Russ Watkins (AHSN NENC commercial director) in 2019 at Confed in Manchester that I could see CDRC with its own stand next year. Little did we know that next year would turn into three years later, but here I was proudly telling Confed delegates about CDRC.

Fantastic support from everyone who attended Confed in Liverpool this year: Nic, Russ, Dave, Kirstie, Stephen, Rach F, Joe C and Ammar, all of which made the few days away extremely worthwhile for CDRC and the AHSN NENC with lots of fun and laugher too!

One of my favourite parts of the whole conference was seeing Joe Chidanyika being treated like a star from some CVD national teams who had only ever seen him on Teams, one fan whispered to me … “Is that Joe C? OMG he is real?! Can you introduce me!”.

Roll on Confed 2023, where hopefully my conference clothes won’t feel so tight, and I will be back again with CDRC, even bigger and better.

Jody Nichols is Associate Director for Health and leads, develops and supports health based national and local innovation programmes into the NHS.