33nsights: Jacque Mallender, Economist and HEX Course Tutor

28 July 2022

Jacque Mallender, Economist and Course Tutor for HEX, talks through how she got in to health economics and her passion for using it to empower the NHS workforce.

As with many others, my passion to work in healthcare was driven from personal experience. I was in my first year as an undergraduate taking an economics degree when I received devastating news about the health of a close family member. As I struggled to get to grips with complex econometrics, I found myself living in the parallel universe of trips to hospital, trying to organise home care, and eventually becoming a carer.

This was 1979, a new political era was about to begin. Many of my peers were heading for careers in financial services and banking. My personal experience focused my attention on the efficiency and effectiveness of public services. I could see for myself how some of the basic concepts of economics could be applied to the health and care service, and that this could dramatically improve patient outcomes.

The National Health Service, then still only three decades old, was under attack for being out of touch, inefficient and ineffective. In those days “health economics” was also in its infancy.

I knew I could never be a clinician, but I did feel I could make a more positive contribution by choosing to specialise in health over banking.

I have subsequently enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, spending my time applying economics to the opportunities for value improvement in health systems and health services in the UK and internationally, most recently with the World Health Organisation and the World Bank. I have done my share of health technology appraisal, which involves looking at the added value of new technologies or new services. But I have also worked on health system design, prevention and health promotion, and the value of investing in the health professional workforce.

Now, at Economics by Design, our big passion is to design value in from the start. For me, health economists are only useful if we help health and care professionals design and deliver services aimed at maximising value for citizens and patients.

So why did we develop Health Economics Explained? It came from a conversation I had with Dr John Jeans, Director and Founder of 33n and National Lead for Health Education England’s CLEAR Programme, about how clinicians seeking to improve services could demonstrate value to those in charge of investing or re-purposing resources.

So many times, we have seen fantastic ideas ‘whither on the vine’ because front-line professionals have been unable to articulate how value will be achieved.

Investments which have the potential to deliver far better value for money than traditional practice remain unfunded because those with the ideas often don’t have the tools to make a persuasive business case. Yes, there is a role for specialist health economists, but equipping clinicians with the basic tools and concepts of health economics will go a long way to helping them unlock transformational ideas and funding for clinically led solutions.

Health Economics Explained is designed to do just that. The course is constructed as a live, participative, online event. The course is designed to both inform and empower clinicians and healthcare professionals to use economics to improve value and make a case for investment. I am really looking forward to engaging with colleagues attending the course. It will be fabulous to help to demystify the topic whilst at the same time learning from their experiences.  If health professionals can leverage the tools of economics in their day-to-day work, together we can maximise benefits for patients and make best use of scarce NHS resources.

HEX is running on various dates throughout the year, view the 33n HEX page for more details on how to sign up.

Find out more about Economics By Design, visit their website.