Labour Party Contemporary Motions 2012

Labour Health Policy SHA policy

The Association, or any affiliated organisation, can submit a motion to the Labour Party Conference.  The deadline is 21st September and it’s got to be under 250 words, and adressing a topic which has arisen since 31st July.

We’ve put together a proposed approach to future health policy: Improving the Health of the Nation; a policy for the NHS and its partners, and that underlies these short motions.

Suggested motions are below.  Comments, or better ideas are most welcome.

1. Public Health

Before the General Election Andrew Lansley said that he wanted to be judged on his record in Public Health.  His recent departure is an opportunity to reflect on the sad record of this Government in Public Health.

This Government’s policies are careless of the health of the population.  The attack on the wider welfare state and benefits for sick and disabled people, the assault on security of tenure and failure to build homes, and indifference to rising levels of unemployment are leading to increased levels of mental and physical illness. The mechanisms which help people to cope with stress are being undermined by cuts in funding to local authorities and voluntary organisations. GPs are spending more time dealing with the practical problems of their most vulnerable patients.  Inequalities in health between rich and poor are increasing.

At the same time businesses who make a profit selling unhealthy products are invited to run public health policy. The healthy standards established by Labour for school meals are abandoned. It will be no surprise if this generation of children are the first since 1840 to have shorter lives than their parents.

2. Healthcare

Our advice to the new Secretary of State for Health:

To ensure quality and broadly equitable service provision right across the country, Government must directly own and manage hospital (secondary and tertiary) components of the system;  the NHS locally may choose to use competent private sector clinical skills in clearly defined circumstances, for example where these offer novel services otherwise unavailable, to remedy persisting inadequate standards, or to meet peak service pressures when NHS capacity is not immediately  available. There should be local accountability for the services provided and the outcomes achieved to the community of people using those services and their families.

Market-style behaviours and incentives have limited application in delivering high levels of consistent quality care. Much more important are:

  • Skilled and motivated clinical, support and managerial staff who share the aims and ideals of the NHS and who take responsibility for their own continuous learning and who are themselves well-cared for as staff.
  • The use of regularly updated evidence – based diagnostic, treatment, and rehabilitative care standards and pathways that accommodate patients care choices wherever sensible
  • The engagement of patients and family / carers in the care process as co-producers of health outcomes and the provision of good information to patients to enable them to be actively engaged. Values of known importance to patients such as dignity and respect should be fully demonstrated in every service provided for each patient.

3  Democracy and accountability

The appalling story of the conspiracy to deny responsibility for events in the Hillsborough stadium is only the latest is a long line attempts by wealthy and powerful people to hide wrong doing.  In the NHS there is a long record of reports into the ill treatment of patients who are unable to complain. There is also a shameful record of persecuting staff who are brave enough to speak out.  Reports started in 1967 and the Mid-Staffs report which is expected in October will not be the last.

These scandals in health are the product of a culture where openness and accountability to patients and local communities is proclaimed loudly across every policy document, but the reality is that decision making is centralised, elitist and secretive.  The introduction of more commercial pressures and competition is not going to make this better, but a return to centralised direction is not a solution.

What we want under Labour for the NHS is local democratic accountability.  The only easy way to introduce this is to give elected local authorities more power over decision making in the NHS.  Health and Wellbeing Boards should have the power to veto plans by Clinical Commissioning Groups. But there will be no accountability without openness. The price of taking public money to provide services must be complete transparency. Contracts must not be hidden behind the cloak of commercial confidentiality.