Since the last Labour Party conference, the NHS has remained under immense financial and performance pressure, CCG boardrooms are still thick with talk of transformation and integration, and opinion polling indicates that healthcare remains a top priority for the public. Health is at the core of the Labour promise, so it is no surprise that this year’s conference is teeming with fringe events on health. This article previews the opportunities to hear the latest thinking on health and care, from inside and outside the movement. Main conference fringe listings can be found here, while listings for The World Transformed are here.

Voices from within the system

Both NHS Providers, which represents hospital and ambulance trusts, and the NHS Confederation, which represents both provider and commissioner organisations, are holding fringe events. NHS Providers’ event is intriguingly titled “Targets And The 10 Year NHS Plan – Meet, Reform Or Scrap?”, perhaps reflecting the themes of their recently published blog on the key questions facing the system (Mon 8am, Concourse Room 2, ACC, invitation only).

The Confed, meanwhile, will be asking the somewhat leading question “Does The Labour Party Need Another Nye Bevan Leadership Moment To Plug The Funding Gap In The NHS?” with a top-quality line-up including Jonathan Ashworth, Unison’s Sara Gorton, the co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners (the trade body for CCGs), and representatives from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (Mon 10am, Hilton Hotel).

Later the same day, the Confed brings together a panel including the RCN and Health Foundation to discuss NHS workforce planning (Mon 12pm, Novotel), and discusses mental health and local government with Luciana Berger MP, Mind and Mersey Care (Mon 3pm, Novotel). The Confederation’s Chief Executive also speaks alongside the Social Market Foundation and Simplyhealth on health outcomes (Tue 8:30am, Pullman Hotel).

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges also pulls together a high-profile panel to discuss priorities for health and care investment, again featuring Ashworth, alongside GP leader Prof. Helen Stokes-Lampard and other leading physicians (Mon 2:30pm, Hilton Hotel). The Royal College of GPs is also hosting an evening event, “The Health Debate” (Tue 7:45pm, Meeting Room 7, ACC). The Royal Colleges of Nursing and Midwifery are represented at the Fabian Society’s Health fringe event, titled “Achieving a Better Health and Care Service” (Sun 1pm, Merseyside Maritime Museum)

Social care is well-represented in this year’s fringe. The Socialist Health Association’s own fringe addresses the future of social care and the NHS Renationalisation Bill (Tue 6pm, Quaker Meeting House). Age UK and the British Red Cross are similarly forward-looking, hosting an event titled “Health And Social Care For The Future: Transforming The System Through Person-Centred Care” (Mon 8:30am, Pullman Hotel, invitation only), and Carers UK joined by Barbara Keeley MP for a session examining the role of the family and the state in care (Mon 10am, Concourse Room 2, ACC). Keeley also joins the panel for a fringe organised by the IPPR think-tank and Future Care Capital, a charity and investor in health and social care startups (Mon 12:30pm, Meeting Room 14, ACC), as well as an Age UK and Fabian Society fringe discussing Labour’s wider agenda for older people (Tue 1pm, Merseyside Maritime Museum).

Party Priorities

The conference presents a number of opportunities to hear from the Shadow Health team, starting with Jonathan Ashworth in conversation with the Huffington Post (Sunday, 12:45pm, Concourse Room 2, ACC), and at the Health and Care Forum reception, where he will be joined by the Welsh Government minister for Children, Huw Irranca-Davies (Sunday 7:45pm, Meeting Room 4a). Ashworth joins the RCN and Health Foundation the following day to consider the killer question “How Do You Fix Health And Social Care Without Losing The Next Election?” (Mon 8am, Hall 2 Room 4, ACC), and also features at events arranged by the Confed and the royal colleges, above.

Given Simon Stevens’ recent comments on gambling as a public health issue, the Labour Campaign for Gambling Reform’s event, “Lessons From The Fight Against Fixed Odds Betting Terminals” is very timely (Mon 12:30pm, Hall 2 Room 5). Gambling reform has been a hot topic across the party this year, with prominent campaigners including Tom Watson and Matt Zarb-Cousin putting the pressure on the government over fixed-odds betting terminals.

The Socialist Health Association will be bringing together women’s health experts and campaigners to discuss maternity and the campaign to save Liverpool Women’s Hospital – a vital campaign to preserve a unique hospital (Mon 12:30pm, Quaker Meeting House)

Backbench MPs Luciana Berger and Paul Williams join Progress’ health fringe (Mon 12:45pm, International Slavery Museum), while MPs Julie Cooper and Ben Bradshaw participate in the Fabian Society’s discussion on the future shape of primary care (Mon 1pm, Merseyside Maritime Museum). Berger also sits alongside Shadow Minister for Public Health Sharon Hodgson and representatives from the Northern Health Science Alliance and University of Manchester to discuss regional health inequalities (Tue 12:45pm, Concourse Room 5). Thangam Debbonaire MP and Jeff Smith MP convene a fringe on drug law reform (Tue 5:30pm, Pullman Hotel).

The Labour Campaign for Mental Health have teamed up with the charity YoungMinds (Sunday, 5pm, Hall 2 Room 4, ACC) to discuss the crisis in young people’s mental health, while at the same time Alzheimer’s Research UK and Age UK host Barbara Keeley MP, the shadow minister for mental health and social care, in discussion about dementia (Sunday, 5pm, Concourse Room 2, ACC).

The World Transformed

Now entering its third year, Momentum’s fringe festival is relatively light on health topics, with only three of the sessions centred on health and care. A separate ticket is required for TWT sessions.

The New Economy Organisers Network is increasingly well-known for its systematic and highly-effective approach to campaigning for progressive causes. This year NEON has increased its focus on the NHS, hiring a full-time NHS organiser, so their TWT session planning the fightback won’t be one to miss, especially since it will also feature one of our own members! (Sun 11am, Black-E main space).

Jonathan Ashworth pops up again alongside the New Economics Foundation and Plan C, the anti-authoritarian communist group, talking mental health and capitalism (Mon 5:30pm, Black-E Theatre).

Finally, Global Justice Now and Health Poverty Action take an international tack on health, discussing prospects for a global NHS (Tue 11am, Black-E Theatre).

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