Kate Bingham wows CHN at IQVIA

Kate Bingham at CHN with IQVIA

On 9th November we were absolutely delighted to welcome Kate Bingham to speak at Cambridge Health Network. The event was hosted by IQVIA in a fabulous venue which provided a great space for a wonderfully stimulating talk, as well as plenty of networking/conversation/book signing opportunities. IQVIA had kindly bought the books and the queue for signing by Kate had to be stopped so she could actually speak!

Kate shared the story of her being asked to join the UK Vaccine Task Force at a relatively early stage of the pandemic, and then being asked to chair it.  Sensibly, she set out some conditions to the PM (Boris) prior to accepting the role – she needed to report directly to him, have sufficient funding, be located in BEIS with rapid decision making and have the discretion to recruit her own team and manage her own communications.

And then they were off.  Brilliant scientists, brilliant logisticians (largely drawn from the military and industry), a cooperative regulatory regime and brilliant orchestrators led by Kate with a Venture Capital / “can do” mindset. No one expected the vaccines to be as effective as they turned out to be, an encouraging shock.

Needless to say, it was not plain sailing with frequent brushes against Whitehall bureaucracy – from the ridiculously early assessment by the National Audit Office to the interventions of the No 10 comms team and attempts to constrain early trials.  But in her characteristically no-nonsense way, Kate took them on, brushed them to one side and got on with the task of finding a vaccine.S ome of her stories about this rollercoaster ride were hilarious, although at the time it must clearly have been extraordinarily stressful.

The success of the endeavour is clear but a number of critical lessons are in danger of being lost.  Not least is the importance of maintaining a register of people willing to participate in clinical trials (this was way more than anyone expected), an effective early warning system, a repository of early vaccines which could be rapidly developed and robust planning system for any future pandemic. And leadership – we had this during Covid, we need continued leadership as the chances of another pandemic are not low. One idea was ensuring more STEM graduates join the civil service with a deeper understanding of science.

Will lessons be learnt for how other, perhaps more day-to-day aspects of the public sector/government are run?  Not necessarily but hopefully Kate’s book will become mandatory reading for all future civil servants/government officials.

A great evening! See photo of Kate receiving the large bunch of flowers we sent in thanks.

Kate Bingham

This event was presented in partnership with and hosted by IQVIA.

Thanks also to all members and guests who attended, in spite of our shall we/shan’t we blip over potential rail strikes.