The NHS is now showing as the key election concern amongst the electorate and I’m not surprised. Equal access to healthcare has to be one of the crowning glories of our country. Not for us, the US-style system where no money often means premature death for those unlucky enough to fall seriously ill. But, the NHS needs our help. Creeping privatisation began under the last Labour Government and has advanced with the Coalition’s Health & Social Care Act. Five years of constrained budgets and enforced ‘efficiency savings’ have brought the system to breaking point with severe strain now showing, particularly in A&E. How do we fix this? Well, it will cost more but, even if funded properly, it will remain one of the most cost-effective (and fair) health systems in the world. Over the last year, I have discussed policy with the National Health Action Party and have agreed to adopt the NHA health policy as my own in this election. I believe that these actions are necessary to secure the future of the NHS. The policy is reproduced below.
We must restore the NHS as a safe, comprehensive, publicly funded, publicly delivered, and publicly accountable integrated healthcare system by reversing the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and supporting an “NHS re-instatement” Bill, to halt and reverse NHS privatisation. We will do this by focussing on thirteen actions.
- Restore the duties and responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Health to provide universal and comprehensive healthcare in England. Ensure less political interference in the day-to-day running of the NHS.
- Halt privatisation, end competition and scrap the market within the NHS with its associated huge and unnecessary costs and bureaucracy. Reinstate the NHS as the preferred provider of healthcare and remove the requirement to tender out contracts to the private sector.
- Increase NHS funding by a minimum of 4% per year and ensure that resources and staffing levels are consistent with maintaining patient safety and high quality care and that the value of staff pay is maintained.
- Listen to patients and staff to improve the NHS. Establish a Health Ombudsman at the head of local independent health commissioners acting on concerns expressed by patients and staff. Reduce the NHS and Department of Health dependence on management consultants and increase the influence of healthcare professionals, staff and patients.
- End financially driven A&E and hospital closures and re-configurations. There must be evidence-based, clinical reasons which have the support of the local population and the affected professional staff. Suitable and accessible alternatives must be in place before any closures take place.
- Oppose the EU/US Free Trade Agreement (TTIP) and similar agreements as they threaten not only the NHS but the health and well-being of the public.
- Stop further Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals and remove the PFI repayment burden from individual hospital trusts. The Government should renegotiate on the basis of “fair value.
- Use the purchasing power of the NHS to get the best deals for all NHS supplies, equipment, and pharmaceuticals for the benefit of patients.
- Abolish prescription charges, which are effectively an unfair tax on people of working age with chronic long term conditions.
- Ensure “parity of esteem” for mental health services, strengthen maternity services and address the crisis in General Practice with an urgent injection of funding.
- Introduce free personal social care for the elderly and disabled, and integrate NHS health provision and local authority social care.
- Prioritise and focus on public health and preventative medicine, including measures to reduce alcohol consumption and smoking.
- Make the social determinants of health an absolute priority in the design and development of all government policies.