Category Archives: Health Care

Health care and treatment in the UK

The Socialist Health Association (SHA) notes the public health green paper – Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, which was published on the 22nd July by the Cabinet Office.

 

We believe that this is a missed opportunity, which ignores much of the evidence on what works best to improve people’s health and wellbeing. Doing something at the level of communities, such as changing an ‘obesogenic’ environment, is more effective and much better value for money, than doing something one by one for individuals..  The paper also largely ignores the impact of poverty and the gross and worsening inequalities in health. At a time when the Government wishes to unite the country, this again betrays its inability to put first the health and wellbeing of all communities.

We support the recognition that health is an asset and a composite health index should be used at Cabinet and across government departments in their planning and investment decisions. We also strongly support the goal of a smoke free country by 2030 but believe that this will need strong regulation and taxation policies. We also support the removal of barriers put in place of water fluoridation, which is an effective way of promoting oral health in children and thus their dentition for life. Finally we support the strengthening of food and drink regulations in respect of salt, sugar and fat content but look to committing to specific measures such as the sugar tax for milky drinks and beverages.

40 years after the Black report on ‘Health Inequalities’ (1980), there is still too little commitment to address poverty. Poverty exacerbated by years of austerity, has resulted in reducing life expectancy and increasing infant mortality. There is no shortage of expert evidence and advice such as the Marmot reports which point to investment in the first 1000 days of life, early years education, the need to have a living wage and a society which enables ageing well. We need to see a strategic commitment by government to abolish child poverty, support parents in the early years and ensure that people have access to jobs that provide a living wage for families.

The Green Paper disappoints too in drawing back from a purposeful commitment to regulate and use taxation to shape the powerful commercial determinants of our health, such as the food and drink market.  We do not see the evidence for change unless linked with regulation (salt), taxation (sugar) and pricing (alcohol unit price). Similarly the rapid growth in gambling driven by advertising on television and social media and enabled by the digital world will require urgent legislation to prevent the growth in harm caused by addiction and consequential debt.

The SHA has recently published our own ‘Prevention and Public Health policy’ endorsed by the Central Council (available at www.sochealth.co.uk), which unlike the government’s Green Paper gives priority to the Climate Emergency and Planetary Health as well as prioritising addressing the social determinants of health.

The Green Paper makes individuals responsible for their own health in a way which will exacerbate the health outcome gap between the rich and poor. There is strong evidence for achieving better health outcomes through implementing interventions on the social, economic and environmental determinants of health and wellbeing. The emphasis on genomics, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) is misplaced in population level prevention policies, although we agree that these areas are exciting and need further research and evaluation

More recent evidence over the past 20 years of the Climate Emergency – the 21st century public health challenge – also needs to be a high priority for prevention and public health.

SHA 26th July 2019.

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Introduction

 

The  SHA Council agreed to pull together some of the existing policies on prevention and public health, introduce new proposals that have been identified and put them into a policy framework to influence socialist thinking, Labour Party (LP) manifestoes and future policy commitments. The SHA is not funded by the industry, charitable foundations or by governments. We are a socialist society which is affiliated to the Labour Party (LP) and we participate in the LP policy process and promote policies which will help build a healthier and fairer society within the UK and globally. An SHA working group was established to draft papers for the Central Council to consider (Annex 1).

 

The group were asked to provide short statements on the rationale for specific policies (the Why?), reference the evidence base and prioritise specific policies (the What?). Prevention and Public Health are wide areas for cross government policy development so we have tried to selectively choose policies that would build a healthier population with greater equity between social groups especially by social class, ethnicity, gender and geographical localities. We have taken health and wellbeing to be a broad concept with acknowledgement that this must include mental wellbeing, reduce health inequalities as well as being in line with the principles of sustainable health for future generations locally and globally.

 

The sections

 

These documents are divided into five sections to allow focus on specific policy areas as follows:

 

  1. Planetary health, global inequalities and sustainable development
  2. Social and the wider determinants of health
  3. Promoting people’s health and wellbeing
  4. Protecting people’s health
  5. Prevention in health and social care

 

The working group have been succinct and not reiterated what is a given in public health policies and current LP policy. So for example we accept that smoking kills and what we will propose are specific policies that we should advocate to further tackle Big Tobacco globally, prevent the recruitment of children to become new young smokers, protect people from environmental smoke and enable smokers to quit. We look to a tobacco free society in the relatively near future. Whether tobacco, the food and drink industry, car manufacturers or the gambling sector we will emphasise the need to regulate advertising, protecting children and young people especially and make healthy choices easier and cheaper through regulations and taxation policies.

 

Wherever appropriate we take a lifecourse approach looking at planned parenthood, maternity and early years all the way through to ageing well. We recognise the importance of place such as the home environment, schools, communities and workplaces and include occupational health and spatial planning in our deliberations.

 

We discuss the NHS and social care sector and draw out specific priorities for prevention and public health delivery within these services. The vast number and repeated contact that people have with these servces provides opportunities to work with populations across the age groups, deliver specific prevention programmes and use the opportunities for contacts by users as well as carers and friends and relatives to cascade health messages and actions.

 

The priorities and next steps

 

In each section we have identified up to ten priorities in that policy area. In order to provide a holistic selection of the overall top ten priorities we have created  a summary box of ten priorities which identify the goals, the means of achieving them and some success measures.

 

This work takes a broad view of prevention and public health. It starts with considering Planetary Health and the climate emergency, global inequalities and the fact that we and future generations live in One World. A central concern for socialists is building a fairer world and societies with greater equity between different social classes, ethnic groups, gender and locality. We appreciate that the determnants of such inequalities lie principally in social conditions, cultural and economic influences. These so called ‘wider determinants and social influences’ need to be addressed if we are to make progress. The sections on the different domains of public health policy and practice sets out a holistic, ecological and socialist approach to promoting health, preventing disease and injury and providing evidence based quality health and social care services for the population.

 

The work focuses on the Why and What but we recognise the need for further work to support the implementation of these priorities once agreed by the SHA Council. Some will be relatively straightforward but others will be innovative and we need to test them for ease of implementation. A new Public Health Act, as has been established in Wales, but for UK wide policies would make future public health legislation and regulation easier.

 

The SHA now needs to advocate for the strategic approach set out here and the specific priorities identified by us within the LP policy process so they become part of the LP manifesto commitments.

 

Dr Tony Jewell (Convener/Editor)

Central Council

July 2019

The complete policy document is available below for downloading.

Public health and Prevention in Health and Social carefinaljuly2019

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The life long member of the Socialist Health Association, Dr Julian Tudor Hart died on July 1st 2018. The following is the funeral tribute paid to him by Dr Brian Gibbons who worked with Julian in the Upper Afan Valley Group Practice  in south Wales.

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There is no great forest that is made up of a single tree, no great river made from a single tributary or no great mountain range with single peak.

And as we come here to remember and commemorate the life of Julian Tudor Hart—we realise what a multi-faceted individual he was.

He embraced and embodies such a broad range and depth of
subjects, knowledge and skills, accomplishments and life experiences

 

To say that Julian was interested in politics and the life of the community that he served for almost three decades would be like saying that Gareth Bale was known to be able to kick a football.

Julian’s politics were principled, passionate and undiminishing right up to the final months and weeks of his life.

Even then he was involved in the Labour Party, Swansea Labour Left and in the affairs of the Upper Afan Valley — in campaigns to keep the key community facilities open such as Cymer Swimming Pool open.

And he was revived and renewed with Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership election and the outcome of the last year’s general elections which showed that British elections no longer had to be won from the middle ground of politics.  And that it was possible to offer people, and particularly the young, a radical alternative for change

And, I’m sure, Julian was not only pleased to see a leader from the left at the helm of the Labour Party.
But he would have also been pleased that that leader shared another of Julian’s great passions — gardening.

If Julian had a chance to speak to Jeremy Corbyn he would have talked not only about politics but also runner beans, carrots, radishes and lettuce.

And those discussions would have given a new meaning to the idea of “organising a left wing plot “ !!!!

 

Julian’s politics came from the heart

But it found expression in the head and in the hand.

He investigated and analysed and applied the scientific method to his political beliefs.

And Julian respected all those who did the same even those who took a diametrically different point of view from him.

It was all the more than painful for him, therefore, to see over recent years to see that ignorance, prejudice and bigotry is too often used as evidence in much of the present political debate.

Karl Marx said, and I am sure that to quote him here this morning at a humanist funeral for Julian Hart is in order.
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

And this is what exactly what Julian did.

Yes he used the scientific method to interpret the world but not with some sort of detached view of the ivory tower academic or to provide frothy intellectual fodder for the chattering classes.

But to intervene to make a difference, to make society a fairer and more equal place for us all to live, a place where we can all work together for our own mutual benefit and the common good, where we all live a more enriching and enjoyable life.

Where all would contribute according to their ability and receive according to their need.

 

Julian was a man of action.
From campaigning side by side with the people who lived in Glyncorrwg and the Upper Afan Valley, through writing papers, pamphlets and books, giving interviews and partaking in debate, peaking and organising meetings,

He was an active, conscientious and creative member of many organisations as diverse as the Socialist Health Association of which he was the first honorary president and the Royal College of General Practitioners of which he was a council member for many years – where he constantly took the view that high professional and clinical standards, particularly for those with the greatest health care needs, were the natural ally of a thriving NHS.
He advised national political parties and governments in various parts of the world.
And he had a particularly important role in the development of health policies in the run up to and in the early years of Welsh devolution.

In short he walked the streets with the people of Glyncorrwg in their campaigns and he also walked on an international stage.

And in mentioning all of this, we do need to remember the support he received from his wife Mary and his children whose home was often a cross between a Heathrow terminal and Piccadilly Circus as people dropped in from far and near from the Afan Valley to the Appalachian Mountains and even further afield.

He also brought his activism and creative thinking to many local campaigns.And we can see the physical legacy of that in the Upper Afan Valley – the South Wales Miners Museum, Glyncorrwg Ponds and Glyncorrwg Mountain Biking Centre.

Of course Julian would agree that none of this would have been achieved without the co-operation in local community efforts and a massive amount of hard work and effort by many local people.
But equally I am sure that there are few who would disagree that none of these projects would have achieved what they did without Julian Hart.

 

Julian Hart was an unrepentant socialist …but he was most particularly committed to promoting and protecting the NHS.

He saw the NHS as being the embodiment of the values of a socialist society, where people contribute, through their taxes, according to their ability to pay – unless you are Google or Amazon, of course — and you receive according to your need.

Nye Bevan was, apparently, once asked how long he thought the National Health Service would last and he is reported as saying “ The NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it.”

But one of our most resolute fighters for the NHS has left us.

Already many people have started to consider what sort of monument or memorial would be fitting to commemorate Julian Hart’s life work.

But I am sure that Julian would be first to say – the greatest of all memorials would be the continuing campaign to protect the NHS and the work to allow it to innovate and expand, to develop and to flourish as an even greater public service than it is now.

One of Julian’s favourite singers was Paul Robson, who was once one of his patients, and one of Paul Robson’s most popular songs was Joe Hill which you will hear later.

Joe Hill was a Swedish immigrant and trade union organiser in the USA who was framed for murder and executed in Salt Lake City.

The song reminds us that even though Joe Hill did die, his spirit lived on wherever there was a the struggle for trade union rights and a campaign for social justice

And Julian’s spirit will live on to be a similar source of
inspiration though he is no longer with us.

Joe Hill said is his last letter – “Don’t mourn, organise!”

Julian would have repeated that message

Organise to protect and build the NHS.
Organise to build a better, more caring and equal society.

That must the first and enduring monument and then we can get on with the rest.

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The title of the new GP contract is “ Investment and evolution: A five- year framework for GP contract reform to implement the NHS Long Term Plan.” 31.1.19 (Framework)

The main aim of NHS England’s ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ 7.1.19 (LTPlan) is to establish Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) throughout England by 2021. And for these to evolve into Integrated Care Providers (ICPs) (Ps 29 – 31 LTPlan) ICSs and ICPs were previously called Accountable Care Systems (ACSs) and Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs). It was against the latter that Judicial Reviews were fought by NHS campaigners from 2017.

In January 2018, Pollock & Roderick exposed the potential for single contract organization ACOs to be run by private companies to make profit out of commissioning and providing health and social care for large populations of NHS registered patients, on huge longterm contracts. (1.) The purpose of ICSs and ICPs it to totally transform 1) the payment systems and 2) the commissioning and delivery systems of health and social care in England, along the lines of US Accountable Care. (1.2.3.) In the latter, providers of healthcare are incentivized to work together, to commission and provide the vast majority of healthcare for a whole population, on a capitated budget. The commissioner and provider align objectives to make a surplus on the budget, whilst pledged to achieve quality standards.

The basic principle is that of American Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs); “ the less care you provide, the more money you make.” Methods used to commission and provide care below budget are to; develop keen leaders, risk segment the population, sophisticated digital systems to promote virtual consultations, share patient data and collect data on health service use and cost, and ‘integrated Multidisciplinary teams” of mainly non-doctors adherent to managed care pathways providing 24 hour continuity of care to keep patients out of hospital substituting for doctors as often as possible. Ruthless imperatives are to *reduce ‘skill mix’, *continually redesign care to cheapen and cut it and *stop patients accessing hospital care.

The favoured payment systems are; a) capitated budgets ( whole Population budgets ) b) performance related rewards e.g QOF and CQUINs in England c) ‘Shared Savings Schemes’ All of the above characterize “ A new Service Model for the 21st Century” promoted in the LTPlan ( Chapters 1 &7) and the Framework.

But the confusing way they are written disguises the US style Accountable Care being smuggled in.

The reference to ICS boards on Page 30 LTPlan actually refers to the STP boards (Sustainability and Transformation Partnership boards) already imposed in 44 areas of England in 2016.
Their remit, known from STP plans, is to make huge cuts, reconfigure care out of District General Hospitals, develop a ‘local system workforce’ with ‘new roles’, divert elective care into the private sector and get GPs into ‘scale’ integrated primary care systems.
The barrier to the latter, despite all the super practices, federations and primary care networks that have been created in the last five years by NHSE, is the fear amongst GP principals that they would lose their independent NHS contractor status and their life long General Medical Services (GMS) contracts. This would be the case in ICPs.
GPs are right to be worried. The strategy is to ‘supercede’ so called ‘ cottage industry’ GP practices, with ‘post industrial’ care, through ‘family care networks’. (4) The Framework is being hailed as the solution. NHSE is happy that GPs are being herded into new Primary Care Networks ( PCNs ) enabling the establishment of ICSs, allover England by 2021. The BMA applauds the Framework as a victory for saving GPs’core primary medical services contracts for now.
But the title gives the game away. It is five-year GP contract reform “to implement the NHS Long Term plan.” GPs are being told to sign up to a Network Contract DES ( Directed Enhanced Services ) (5) as an “extension” to their core practice contract AND a Network Agreement, which is a legal integration agreement. “ The PCN is a foundation of all integrated care systems;…” ( P 30 p4.28 Framework)

The practices, in agreeing to the Network Contract DES, AND the Network Agreement are bound to work together, share patient and other data, carry out network specifications, share network funding for new non- doctor network staff ( >22,000 of them over 5 years ) and deliver other urgent care and extended hours services.
The network agreement requires that providers of other medical and social care, join the new PCN, e.g. community providers such as dentistry, optometry, Virgin run nursing, charities, acute and mental health trusts and local authority social care, over time. In this way the new PCN becomes an integration machine.

In signing the Network Contract and Network Agreement ( and agreeing an area covering 30 to 50,000 or more population, giving their patient list numbers, choosing a Clinical Director to sit on the Sustainability and Transformation (STP) board, and deciding which NHS contracted body will receive central network funds,) the member practices would form a new PCN.

Practices are being jumped into joining new PCNs by 30.6.19. Although this is supposed to be voluntary, pressure is being applied for 100% coverage.
The new PCNs would work under the direction of the STP via the Clinical Director and must deliver LTPlan and STP directives and protocols, i.e. commissioner diktats, or network funding stops.

In this way the STP in the area ( 1-2mn population) would become REAL.- in the sense of running GPs and patient lists as their delivery arm. ICSs = STP boards + PCNs. ICSs cannot function without NHS registered patient lists.
Astonishingly, whether practices join the new PCN or not, their patients will belong to the Network anyway (P 28. p 4.19) and network services would still be provided to those patients.

Two critical consequences flow from this Framework; 1. Patient lists will in future belong to the practice AND to the network.
The ownership of NHS patient lists will in this way be acquired by the ICSs. 2. GPs will be working to their original practice contracts AND to the Network contracts. The two contracts would be double running.
GPs are being assured that as they still retain their core practice contracts, – all be-it overlayed by the Network Contract DES, and the network integration agreement – that they are safe and their original GP primary medical services duties would remain the same.
But for those with eyes to see, -with the augmentation of network funds over five years, ( £1.8bn nationally compared to £1bn for the core practices ) the flooding -in of new non -doctor network staff to do GP work, requirements to perform new ways of working, and redesign care, and diktats to reduce hospital referrals and cut hospital care to achieve ‘shared savings’ for the ICS, – that GPs would lose their autonomous leadership role of patient advocate, prioritizing optimal care for their patients. GPs would find themselves driven by perverse incentives to endorse the constant cheapening of care and denial of hospital treatment.
GP practices would become entangled in the Networks physically and financially and find it difficult to get out again. They would be better to not sign up. Over half of GPs are now salaried sessional or locums and the BMA GP membership has not had a vote.
This Framework is a thousand times worse than the GP contract change in 2004. It aims to herd GP practices into new integrating networks which form the basis of giant ICSs throughout England. Through multiyear GP Network contract changes, the Framework enables ICSs to ‘evolve, and paves the way for fully integrated ICPs on single long term NHS contracts, tailor-made for international corporate takeover.
The American model has been pursued in England by successive governments since Enthoven recommended HMO Kaiser Permanente to Mrs Thatcher in 1990. Simon Stevens, (Blair’s health advisor 1997 – 2004, vice president of UnitedHealth the biggest US health insurance company 2004 – 2014) was appointed CE of NHSE in 2014 by David Cameron, and then advocated ACO style ‘new models of care’ in the Five Year Forward View. (6) American accountable care methods are now being imposed in England from within by NHSE, well before President Trump opened his mouth about more US trade deals.
These proposals should be exposed and opposed by all who treasure the NHS publicly provided according to clinical need, comprehensive and free at the point of use.

Anna Athow

annaathow@btinternet.com

9.6.19

references;

  1.  “ Why we should be concerned about accountable care organisations in England’s NHS.” 30.1.18 BMJ 2018; 360 doi: https//:doi.org/org/10.1136/bmj.k343
  2. UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernisation “ 2012FAREWELL TO FEE-FOR-SERVICE A “Real World “strategy for Health Care” Dec 2012: https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/content/dam/UHG/PDF/2012/UNH-Working-Paper-8.pdf
  3. “Accountable Care’- the American import that’s the last thing England’s NHS needs.” Stewart Player, 1.3.16 https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/stewart-player/accountable-care-american-import-thats-last-thing-englands-nhs-needs
  4. “Commissioning and funding general practice Making the case for family care networks.” 2014 Rachael Addicott & Chris.P 38 https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/co mmissioning-­‐and-­‐funding-­‐general-­‐practice-­‐kingsfund-­‐feb14.pdf
  5. “Network Contract Directed Enhanced Service” NHSE 29.3.19  https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-­‐content/uploads/2019/03/network-­‐contract-­‐des-­‐specification-­‐2019-­‐20-­‐v1.pdf
  6. “The Multispecialty community provider ( MCP ) emergingcare model and contract framework” July 2016 Gateway 05637 https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-­‐content/uploads/2016/12/1693_DraftMCP-­‐1a_A.pdf
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Integrated Care is the most recent re-naming of Accountable Care: the system currently being implemented in the NHS in England and which is derived from the US. This blog addresses issues arising from this implementation and whether or not Integrated Care is fit for public purpose.

The narrative that comes from Westminster, echoed by parts of the media and even some campaigners, is that whilst cuts and closures, underfunding, understaffing and poor NHS management at the highest levels are all contributory factors to the problems the NHS faces, there is no overarching concern with Integrated Care itself.

On the contrary, the bringing together of commissioners (purchases of services) and providers of services is viewed as getting rid of the hated ‘purchaser-provider split’ which is isolated in this narrative from all other structural components and becomes a proxy for the market system. On this point alone the move to Integrated Care is seen as a stepping stone to a return to public service. There is even some movement to reclaim ‘integrated’ as a term of public service.

There are very good reasons why tackling this issue head on may be politically sensitive. Labour is keen to claim for itself not only the creation of the NHS (which it historically deserves) but a current role as the best defence against Trump. The Secretary of State for Health also claims that he will not allow the NHS to be in US-UK trade talks ‘on his watch’. That is understandable, but the love affair of the major UK political parties with United Health and Kaiser Permanente, amongst others, goes more than skin deep. US Integrated Care has been introduced into the NHS piecemeal over the last 30 years and we are now into the full adoption of an NHS ‘version’ being rolled out at speed. It’s here where the argument lies for politicians, think tanks and amongst campaigners . A question mark is raised over its origins and over whether it is irredeemably bad for the NHS or not.

Our counter argument is threefold:
1. The Integrated Care System does not in fact remove the ‘purchaser-provider split’, but merely changes it to a different type.
2. The constraints put upon the NHS to meet the requirements of Integrated Care are set out in terms of restructuring the service in such a way that it will no longer meet the key tenets embedded in it from its creation: delivering all services for everyone within (mostly) easy reach.
3. “One thing the community cannot do is insure against itself. What it can and must do is to set aside an agreed proportion of the national revenues for the creation and maintenance of the service it has pledged itself to provide.” Bevan’s statement worked on a national level while the ICS model creates a risk and reward system in which profit and loss are to be shared locally between the constituent players of 44 ‘local health economies’. This is entirely upending the basis for financing the NHS.

Integrated Care
The concept of Integrated Care is a longstanding method in the United States which was created to try and reduce the healthcare costs which are spiralling out of control. The most expensive part of any healthcare system anywhere in the world is acute care. It needs higher concentrations of staff per patient, more infrastructure – both buildings and equipment – and changes more rapidly than other parts of the service in its response to technological advances.
It follows from an accounting point of view that any measures which can be taken to ‘reduce demand’ on the acute sector will reduce costs. Part of the cost reduction exercise in the US involves forming collaborative bodies (Accountable Care Organisations aka Integrated Care) which share profit or loss across the different constituent bodies – that is to say the insurance groups who provide the funding from their clients (state or private) plus various hospitals, GP practices and other health services. The profit and loss sharing is designed to provide incentives for keeping people out of hospital and in theory to keep them more healthy in the community.
From the above, it is clear that purchasing and providing still exist within US Accountable Care and that it in no sense represents a return to the kind of planning required to run a public service NHS. The same is true of the system being implemented in England.

Restructuring the NHS
In order to attempt to meet the accounting criteria behind Integrated Care, the NHS’ historical provision of local GP family practices, local District General Hospitals that include full Accident and Emergency and other local services must be dismantled. Acute and emergency provision is calculated to be more cost effective if it is concentrated in hospitals that service a much larger population. Local hospitals then become satellites to the centralised major trauma hospital no longer offering the full service we are used to.
GPs are being corralled into much larger units which may run the satellite hospital or work from large centralised clinics. Property made ‘surplus’ from these restructurings can be sold as a result.
These changes are an intrinsic part of the development of Integrated Care. They are not optional, nor do they come about only as a result of the last nine years of below inflation funding.
None of the descriptions above are based on assumptions. They all come from official NHS England and Sustainability and Transformation Partnership policy documents. The reality is evident on the ground.

Risk and Rewards
“Risk and reward sharing is underpinned by a theory of change that expects a provider to adjust its behaviour in response to financial incentives”
Early adopters of the ACO model in 2012 in the US, known as Pioneers (see our report on ACOs for more details), were allowed to move to a full capitated budget. This represents the full transfer of risks from the commissioner to the ACO and it means the ACO has the incentive to cut costs in order to maximise its profit share from the budget. As in those early pioneer ACOs, NHS England has made it clear that it wishes to pass all financial risks to the Integrated Care Systems. But unlike the US model, an NHS ICS does not necessarily have to include acute hospital services in its provider collaboratives. As the greatest losses fall on acute hospital services this creates the possibility of a collaborative being formed only from those providers who can best make profits.
Our report into ACOs explains how many of the participants in the early US pioneer programme failed to see many of the implications of a shared savings programme, seeing only its potential benefits. They later discovered that they had serious financial difficulties.
This question of risk and reward sharing is one of the most important issues for an NHS provider and illustrates how they have moved from being government provided services to government commissioned services. Under this scheme an NHS provider could potentially suffer significant losses risking its financial viability to the point where it may collapse as a business.

The failures of private sector providers, as we have seen in recent years, causes inconvenience for commissioners and loss of services for patients but the potential collapse of an NHS body would have far more serious ramifications. There is also the case where a majority of an ICS’ services are provided by private sector organisations which opens the door to profits flowing out of NHS funds. Furthermore the arrangements for how both risks and rewards will be shared between providers adds another layer of complexity to the transaction costs of the NHS. This, of course, provides yet more work for management consultancies, big accountancy firms and lawyers.

What’s to be done?
We fully appreciate the desire of campaigners to achieve victories in the face of what feels to be overwhelming odds. Each local victory does throw a welcome spanner in the works. However, to ignore the structural changes being brought in and not to recognise the part that each individual closure or downgrade plays in the overall pattern of change is to ignore the elephant in the room.
That is why we think the slogan ‘Act Local, Think National’ should always be embedded in every campaign. It is important to understand that the national picture gives the corporate sector a major role in the future of the NHS as it has done increasingly over the last thirty years and that the model currently being adapted is specifically based on US Integrated Care.
This is a system built fundamentally on business principles with competition and the profit motive in its DNA. This is not a system that lends itself to public ownership and provision serving the public interest.
President Trump’s statement about the NHS being on the table in future trade talks set off a raft of responses including Jeremy Corbyn tweeting, ‘Labour will [..] ensure US private companies cannot lay a hand on our NHS. The NHS is not for sale’ and Matt Hancock saying, ‘not on my watch’. It has understandably provoked a lot of comments on social media and discussions in the press about the importance of keeping the US out of the NHS in the future. But the challenge is to change the conversation so that we openly oppose US corporate interests influencing our NHS now.

Deborah Harrington

Who We Are

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Patients still make enquiries at busiest hours, despite 24/7 online access

· University of Warwick publishes first independent evaluation of one of the main providers of online consultation platforms

· Targeting services at younger patients and those with general administrative enquiries could be most effective

· “In reality, patients were seeking access to health care at the same times and for the same sort of problems than they did using traditional routes.” Says supervising author.

Patients are using online consultations in the same way they would arrange a consultation via traditional means, a new independent evaluation by the University of Warwick reveals.

Despite this, the study identifies several opportunities to tailor online platforms to specific patient requirements and improve their experience.

Primary care researchers from Warwick Medical School have today (26 March) published the first independent evaluation of one of the main providers of online consultation platforms in NHS general practice. Published in the British Journal of General Practice, it provides independently analysed information on the types of patients that are using online triage systems, how and when patients are using this platform, and what they think of it.

Online triage is a system in which patients describe their problems via an online form and subsequently are telephoned by a GP to conduct a telephone consultation or arrange a face-to-face consultation. Practices aim to respond within one hour of receiving the request.

The researchers examined routine information from 5140 patients at nine general practices using the askmyGP platform over a 10 week period. Highest levels of use were between 8 am and 10 am on weekdays (at their highest on Mondays and Tuesdays) and 8 pm and 10 pm at weekends, mirroring the busiest time for patients contacting their practice via telephone.

Supervising author Dr Helen Atherton, from Warwick Medical School, said: “With online platforms there is an assumption that having a 24/7 ability to make contact with a general practice will cater to those who wish to deal with their health problem at a convenient time, often when the practice is shut, and that being online means they will perhaps share different problems than they would over the telephone or face-to-face.

“In reality, patients were seeking access to health care at the same times and for the same sort of problems than they did using traditional routes. This suggests that patients’ consulting behaviour will not be easily changed by introducing online platforms. Therefore practices should be clear as to exactly why they are introducing these online platforms, and what they want to achieve for themselves and their patients in doing so – the expectation may well not meet reality.”

The NHS Long term plan sets out that over the next five years all patients will have the right to online ‘digital’ GP consultations. The main way these are being delivered is via online consultation platforms. The online platforms claim to offer patients greater convenience and better access and to save time and workload for GPs, however there is currently a lack of independent evidence about their impact on patient care and care delivery.

Patient feedback analysed as part of the study showed that many found the askmyGP system convenient and said that it gave them the opportunity to describe their symptoms fully, whilst others were less satisfied, with their views often depending on how easily they can normally get access to their practice, and on the specific problem they are reporting.

The study found that two thirds of users were female and almost a quarter were aged between 25 and 34, corroborating existing evidence. The commonest reason for using the service was to enquire about medication, followed by administrative requests and reporting specific symptoms, with skin conditions, ear nose and throat queries and musculoskeletal problems leading the list.

The researchers argue that practices should avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach to implementing online consultations and should tailor them to suit their practice populations and model of access, considering whether it is likely to add value for their patient population.

Dr Atherton adds: “Individual online consultation platforms are uniform in their approach, patients are not. We found that patient satisfaction is context specific – online consultation is not going to be suitable for all patients and with all conditions and that one approach is unlikely to work for everyone.

“Practices could focus on encouraging people to deal with administrative issues using the platform to free up phone lines for other patients. It could be promoted specifically to younger patients, or those who prefer to write about their problems and not to use the telephone. Clear information for patients and a better understanding of their needs is required to capture the potential benefits of this technology.”

· ‘Patient use of an online triage platform; a mixed-methods retrospective exploration in UK primary care’ published in the British Journal of General Practice, DOI: 10.3399/bjgp19X702197

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Peter Beresford, Professor of Citizen Participation at Essex University and Co-Chair of Shaping Our Lives, the user led organisation.

Nothing less than a root and branch reform of English social care is now needed. Its funding and principles must be radically reviewed. Only this will end its permanent state of crisis. Nothing else will make anything like a reasonable life possible for the millions of older and disabled people and family carers now suffering-  sometimes in extreme – from its gross failure and ever declining reach. Some commentators still wait hopefully for the promised government green paper that never comes, but given this administration is still committed to its same old neoliberal goals, it is difficult to see why. What’s needed is a fresh start.

According to the NHS’s own figures, since 2009 the number of people receiving adult social care in England has fallen, despite significantly growing levels of need. In 2009 1.8 million people received some adult care services in a 12 months period. Today the figure is estimated just over 1 million, a cut of 44%. People are also receiving less support and in the many cases where they have to pay, paying more. This year Age UK estimated that 1.2 million people don’t receive the care support they need with essential living activities.

Most people assume that social care is provided on the same basis as the NHS, paid for out of general taxation and free at the point of delivery. In fact the absolute opposite is the case. It is a relic of the old much hated Victorian Poor law. It is both means and needs tested. This coupled with years of arbitrary welfare benefits cuts in the name of ‘austerity’ and combatting ‘fraud’, means that the lives of many older and disabled people have never been so insecure, impoverished or undermined since the creation of the post war welfare state.

So that’s the first thing that must change. It’s not just that social care needs to be ‘integrated’ with the NHS – a favourite word of current policymakers – in principle and practice – in values and funding base as a universalist service, free for those who need it. It also need to be based on the philosophy of independent living developed by the disabled people’s movement. This means that instead of framing service users in deficit terms – what they can’t do – it is rebuilt on the fundamental principle of making it possible for them to live their lives on as equal terms as non-disabled people, non-service users. And this demands similarly based income maintenance, housing, education, employment, planning, transport and other policies.

We are not going to see this from right wing governments committed to ‘the small state’, the individualising values of the market, regressive taxation and cutting state spend on supporting people. But this must be the basis for any political party committed for the future to securing the rights and needs of all its citizens (as well as challenging hostility and discrimination against non-citizens).

To achieve this, advocates of truly radical reform of social care, are calling for an ‘independent living service’, which has the financial backing and overview of the treasury and which brings together the roles and responsibilities of all departments to make possible equal lives for the rapidly growing minority of disabled and older people who can expect to need support. Thus, like the NHS it would be harmonised from the centre, to avoid the problems of the present post-code lottery arrangements linked with the current locally led system.

The present loss and impoverishment of many user led organisations; that is to say those directly controlled by disabled people and other service users, needs urgently to be reversed and such a national network supported to be a key provider of support and services on a human and local scale for service users, offering a key source of accessible high quality training and employment to service users for whom employment is a positive and realistic choice.

Finally in an aged of AI – artificial intelligence – social care needs to be reconceived as a major generator of positive relationship-based employment and a net social and economic contributor that can be part of a new sustainable economics and social policy. Here we can see the vanguard of a new planet friendly approach to social policy, that offers the promise of high quality support, high quality employment and truly participatory policy and practice.

Professor Peter Beresford is author of All our Welfare: Towards Participatory Social Policy, Policy Press. He is emeritus professor of social policy at Brunel University London, professor of citizen participation at Essex University and co-chair of Shaping Our Lives.

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Background

The NHS Executive outlined eight groups of suggested legislative changes in the NHS Long Term Plan and, as promised in the Plan, these have now been set out in further detail in Implementing the NHS Long Term Plan: Proposals for possible changes to legislation [1]. The intention is to make it easier for NHS organisations to work together. Ostensibly these proposals are supposed to help the NHS improve its delivery of services but we see real problems here.

Principal objection

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was a package promoting a range of checks and balances on the operation of the NHS, designed to support local commissioning; patient choice and competition at the provider level; governed by arm’s length regulators safeguarding quality and the NHS market; and local authority and consumer scrutiny, consent and supervision.

It is not easy to change one part of this without unravelling the whole but this is what is now proposed. There are good arguments for the complete revocation of this Act with its muddled thinking, naive faith in competition and GP-led commissioning, and the notion that politicians could shirk their own responsibility for taking difficult decisions by passing the buck to NHS managers and regulators.

But such a major change should only be done after full discussion, white papers, consultation and time to debate primary legislation in Parliament. These proposals are nothing more than a way of avoiding full Parliamentary discussion. The danger is that ad hoc tinkering rather than fully thought through reform will do more harm than good.

Lack of evidence

The supposedly new ethos promoted in these changes is ‘integration’ of service provision under one body. This may appear a plausible way forward but it is unproven as an operational principle or as a means of delivering improvements in efficiency or quality. The House of Commons Select Committee[2], the National Audit Office[3] and more recently the Nuffield Trust[4] have all produced highly critical reports of the new fashion for so-called integration. As yet these criticisms have not been answered.

A recent perplexed quote relating to the Greater Manchester (GM) experience sums matters up, “Everyone I’ve spoken to is at a loss to explain why GM’s performance has been so poor, given the progress that’s been made on integration and the transformation investment that’s gone in”, HSJ 25th February. The true lesson here is that integration does not guarantee success. But this is a lesson that NHS bosses do not want to hear.

We have closely monitored projects in various parts of the country that have been forced to pursue this transformation and integration agenda and, in for example Manchester where massive investment has taken place, there is precious little to show for it. The latest reports from the Nuffield Trust show that integration is a more costly model[5]. These proposals therefore lack evidence that the new policy response will succeed.

The downside of the proposals

All new proposals must demonstrate that they will do no harm. But, by making it easier to force mergers and close down acute hospitals in the name of ‘integrating’ services, the NHS is seeking to institutionalise a model that seeks to cut local services for patients without adequate consultation, and push back onto the patient the costs and delays of the failures of care that will result. At least checks and balances were built into the Health and Social Care Act 2012 requiring proper presentation of detailed plans, independent regulator support, widespread local stakeholder support and the right to challenge decisions; these would now be scrapped in favour of a centrally-led structure with NHS England at its heart, leading a purge of NHS capacity as it strives to meet government-imposed arbitrary financial targets.

These proposals are nothing more than a power grab by NHS England to enable its own transformation and integration policies to be imposed on unwilling communities. This is to be achieved by reducing the role of the independent regulators to mere ‘yes men’ as NHS England becomes the only source of power; by elevating the achievement of financial results to the overriding objective (best value); by being unaccountable to local people by removing the link to local accountability which however faulty was the basis for major decisions; and, by promoting a vague and meaningless slogan (integration) as the main principle justifying its activities.

Concluding remarks

This is a power grab by NHS England under cover of the distraction of Brexit to achieve for itself untrammelled power over the future of the NHS. It will then act quickly: a wave of mergers, closures and sub-contracting of new models of care would be unleashed. These changes would be enacted quickly and with very limited means for local people to challenge decisions.

MPs will find themselves and their constituents faced by a fait accompli with little that can be done. Voters in upcoming general and local elections will express their feelings for local hospitals in the traditional way (by voting against politicians who allowed this to happen). But it will be too late. Hospitals and A&E departments once closed rarely re-open. Services sub-contracted for 10-15 years or more will be difficult to restore. Huge integrated care organisations will be monopolistic in attitude and operation, and impossible to be held accountable effectively.

Local authorities will be either incorporated into this mess in return for crumbs off the NHS table, or left out in the cold while decisions take place around them that will push the costs and implications of changes onto patients and communities.

Oppose these changes to legislation. Integration is a smokescreen for NHS England to overrule local objections to service closures.

 

Roger Steer

14.3.2019

[1]

Implementing the NHS Long Term Plan: Proposals for possible changes to legislation

Engagement Document  February 2019 Prepared by: NHS England Strategy & Innovation Directorate and NHS Improvement Strategy Directorate

https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/survey/nhs-long-term-plan-legislation/consult_view/

[2]

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhealth/650/650.pdf

[3]

Health and social care integration NAO February 2017

[4]

Shifting the balance of care Great expectations Nuffield Trust March 2017; and

Doomed to repeat? Lessons from the history of NHS reform  Nuffield Trust October 2018

[5]

https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/research/age-uk-s-personalised-integrated-care-programme-evaluation-of-impact-on-hospital-activity

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We welcome comments on this article which has come out of the Reclaim Social Care Campaign. It is not SHA policy, but it raises important questions relevant to both social care and the NHS.

This is a wide field in which a variety of species flourish, some of which are dangerous invasives. We need to cultivate systematically to ensure that what grows in this field is healthy, productive, and not a threat to other growth. We need to be able to classify, in order to isolate rogues, and then eradicate them. We need to be able clearly to identify some of the more rampant plant life, in order. maybe, to consider techniques of pruning.
I come to this view of the wider challenge from an interest in cultivating a little patch in this field – one area that I think is growing some special and healthy new life. My patch is occupied by a Community Interest Company. This organisation safeguarded one local piece of our National Health Service, by propagating it and preserving it from being hybridised – merged– a with a completely different plant that would have taken us over. We have created an organisation that is of our community, for our community, and owned by our community.
I am a fervent supporter of the NHS, especially having, for 15 years, suffered under the US excuse for a health system. I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1972. The principles of the NHS, as promoted by the Labour Party from 1948, are not negotiable, but there are different ways to organise to support those principles. I believe that there are freedoms in a CIC organisation that make it easier to maintain some aspects of health and social care in conformity with those principles – not everything in the way the NHS organises itself and runs its staff and services is perfect. My purpose in writing this paper is to try to distinguish the different types of possible organisation, to identify the healthy growth points, and also rogue growth.

I start with a straightforward definition:
“A simple definition of “public sector provider” in this context is: one that is constitutionally owned by the community or the State and operates not for profit.”

If one were to operationalise that definition, one would be able to draw a line across one large sector of our field – often called “The Third Sector”. If I understand that term correctly, it contains both charitable bodies and the range of different social enterprises. My simple definition, once operationalised, would separate those two parts of that Third Sector: charitable bodies are accountable through Boards and the Charity Commission – they are not “constitutionally owned by the community or the State”.
The largest part of our health field – diminishing and under threat, but the revered sector whence proliferate (or struggle) the heirloom crops – is defined by the phrase “constitutionally owned by the State”. It should not be hugely difficult to operationalise this definition, in which “State” could be national or local.
That leaves, I think, the cultivators of two sections of field to be pinned down: commercial cultivators and the social enterprises. The word “enterprise” – a word sullied with muck in some horticultural circles – creates a confusion for some, but I think my first definition, with its reference to “constitutionally owned by the community”, serves to draw a line between private enterprise and “mutual enterprise”. I think that an operational definition of private enterprise is achievable.
That leaves the mutuals, or social enterprises. That is a field with subdivisions. Those dividing lines have been traced by Geraint Day and Mo Girach, among others -The semantics of the ‘Big society’: Social enterprises, mutuals and co-operatives, NHS Alliance, August 2010. One subdivision contains CICs, like the one I am associated, whose constitutions place ownership in the hands of not just the workers in the mutual, but the whole community.
There is a programme in this for a whole load of research, I guess:


I would like to ask readers of this paper:

a) If they find the subdivision of the field proposed above useful
b) If they know of any work that pushes forward on defining some of the boundaries in a way that generates precise facts
c) If they know any facts that would give a more accurate version of the numbers guessed in the left-hand part of the diagram above

Once we have divided up the field in a manner that commands some agreement, we can then consider different ways of dealing with different plant species. Even the more aggressive plants might have their uses, if we can refine our horticultural techniques. I believe that there is a lot of mileage in looking at this horticulture from the point of view of risk management. If one can be clear about the risks involved in handling each type of plant, one can be more confident of training each plant to grow to maximise its useful productive capacity. Leaving this (rather seductive) metaphor behind – what one needs to aim at is to understand the types of contract each type of organisation can sustain in a way that optimises their capacity for good, and minimises the risk of bad.
I believe that we can get a long way by distinguishing between contracts in which the best way forward is to share risk between commissioner and provider – those are not safely handled outside public sector partners. But there are also opportunities for what I would call “segregated risk” contracts, where we might watch private enterprise do what it is best at, without massive risk.
But that is another discussion.

And there is a third related discussion we could have: in addition to an operational – i.e. useful – definition of the concepts discussed above, it would be advantageous to come up with legal definitions of some of these concepts. Here are some of the challenges encountered in searching for legal definitions with reference to a CIC:
• The CIC may be “owned” by the citizens of the community/Borough/town, but …
• What are the implications of “ownership”?
• How is the CIC accountable to the owners?
• Our CIC has a Membership Council – community and staff, but …
• Are the members of the Council representatives?
• … of whom?
• What is the “membership”?
We tried launching a membership drive, but foundered on the fact that there was nothing we could offer “members” that we didn’t want to give them simply as one of our population of potential or actual service users. We eschewed the practice of our Acute NHS Foundation (and many other Foundations) – of simply “signing up” everyone who comes through the door, in order to create an artificial “membership” number.

• What if some services are also offered in other communities? What if the organisation is willing to expand into other places it the circumstances are propitious?
• How does one characterise membership in locations where the organisation plays a minor role in the range of care?
• and on and on
The efforts of the CIC to represent the needs of its community may be completely genuine. The CIC may know that the core, at least, of its community is the citizenship of the community/Borough/town that it serves, and that may be enough for pragmatic purposes. It is better to have a practical rationale for pressing forward with doing good, rather than getting too caught up in definitions.
But, if there are readers out there who can help with legal definitions, or examples, or processes for enacting representative monitoring, then please share.

The risk for some social enterprises is that they can be captured by the profit motive or by the private sector. This is a risk that increases as money gets tighter. There are ways to have insurance against that threat, and not necessarily in terms of formal accountability and representativeness. One approach is to mount a diligent programme to embody the principles of organisation in the whole organisation – all members of the staff – and to ensure that principled continuity is not dependent on a small group of founders.
The CIC of which I am a Community Governor has some very creative approaches to ensuring continuity, principle and direction in this way. But that is yet another story.

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The Pharmaceutical Journal reports that the Good Law Project threaten DHSC with legal challenge over “failure to consult properly”

From The Pharmaceutical Journal 21 FEB 2019 By Carolyn Wickware:

The Good Law Project has warned the Department of Health and Social Care that it will start judicial review proceedings if serious shortage protocol powers are not revoked on the grounds that the consultation was “insufficient and unlawful”.

A non-profit group has threatened the government with legal action unless it revokes new powers designed to allow pharmacists to switch patients’ medicines if there is a shortage.

The Good Law Project has said it will start judicial review proceedings over newly implemented “serious shortage protocol” powers if the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) fails to remove the amendments in legislation by 25 February 2019.

Amendments to the Human Medicines Regulation 2012, which came into force on 9 February 2019, mean the government can now issue protocols asking pharmacists to respond to a medicines shortage in one of four ways: to dispense a reduced quantity, a therapeutic equivalent, a generic equivalent or an alternative dosage form of the drug.

Under the protocol, the pharmacist would not have to consult the patient’s GP before making the switch.

The Good Law Project is now seeking to launch a judicial review of the amendments, partially on the grounds that the government’s initial consultation – which lasted one week on 5–12 December 2018 – was “insufficient and unlawful”.

In a legal document sent on 19 February 2019 from the group’s lawyers to the DHSC to inform them of their intent to start the review proceedings, the Good Law Project said it was “unclear exactly who the Secretary of State consulted with and how/on what basis”.

It added: “The failure to consult properly with organisations representing specific patient interests was unlawful.”

Ekklesia reports:

Jolyon Maugham QC, Director of the Good Law Project, said: “Both doctors and patients have proper concerns about their safety in the event of medicine shortages. We want the Government to withdraw the prospect of SSPs [Serious Shortage Protocols] until it has complied with its legal duties and consulted properly on their use. If the Government does not take this step, the Good Law Project will launch judicial review proceedings in the High Court.”

Professor Tamara Hervey, Specialist Adviser to Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee, said: “In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there would be likely to be shortages of medicines. The absence of a legal framework for imports and exports drastically affects supply chains. Stockpiling plans cannot cope for more than a few weeks. This is a serious issue for people needing a regular supply of a particular type, strength and quality of medicine.”

Jane Hanna, Chief Executive of SUDEP Action, who is supporting the judicial review said “Patients, doctors and pharmacists are used to prescriptions and the processes surrounding them. For people with long-term conditions, like epilepsy, what is on the prescription may represent months and years of trying out the best medication schedule. Changes made to this delicate balance can for some, undo this in an instant. For epilepsy this could lead to less seizure control, impacting on quality of life (ie: losing a driving licence, affecting home and work) and significantly for some this can prove fatal.  At present if a supply of medication is made in error, lessons can be learnt because of the clarity of who signed and who supplied the prescription.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) said: “We are deeply concerned that these changes were made without proper consultation. Prescribing HIV medication is a complex process which must take account of a multitude of factors. The only person qualified to safely alter the medication prescribed to a person living with HIV is that person’s HIV consultant.”

• The Pre Action Protocol Letter can be seen here

 

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Responding to the Health Secretary’s pledge to overhaul mental health and wellbeing services for NHS staff following the launch of a Health Education England review, BMA mental health policy lead, Dr Andrew Molodynski, said:

“Staff are fundamental to the delivery of patient care in the NHS and without a healthy workforce our health service can barely function, let alone thrive.

“Given the current pressures that the NHS workforce is under, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s commitment to improving mental health and wellbeing support for staff is both timely and necessary.

“We know that doctors’ mental health and wellbeing has been adversely affected by the increasing demands of their work and this is true also for medical students who are dealing with stress, fatigue and exposure to traumatic clinical situations, very often without adequate support on hand.

“The BMA recently for greater provision of mental health support for NHS staff as their report¹ found that only about half of doctors were aware of any services that help them with physical and mental health problems at their workplace – while one in five respondents said that no support services are provided.

“While these measures will go a long way to providing much-needed support for NHS workers who are struggling with their mental health and overall wellbeing, more must be done to address the wider pressures on the system, such as underfunding, workforce shortages and rising patient demand, so we can reduce the number needing to seek help in the first place.”

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DELIVERED AT JULIAN HART’S FUNERAL — JUNE 16th 2018

 

Julian and I were chatting once about heaven and hell, as you do. He didn’t believe in either, but supposing he was wrong, he thought he might be allowed into heaven, not as a believer, you understand, but for good behaviour.

Julian always wanted to be a doctor in a mining village, partly because his father had been a colliery doctor in Llanelli; partly it was the romance of mining practice as popularised in AJ Cronin ‘s novel The Citadel; but mainly it was the sort of community to which he wanted to belong.

And belong he did. As Gerald Davies, one of his patients, said in a BBC documentary , Julian wasn’t aloof like the other doctors, the headmaster and the colliery manager. He lived in the village and shared the common experience.

He wrote about it for medical students, “No one is a stranger; they are not only patients but fellow citizens. From many direct and indirect contacts, in schools, shops and gossip, I have come to understand how ignorant I would be if I knew them only as a doctor seeing them when they were ill.”

Julian loved his patients – not romantically, of course. The opposite of love in this context is indifference and Julian was never indifferent. He hated when bad things happened to his patients, especially when they could have been prevented. In his last 28 years at Glyncorrwg, there wasn’t a single death in women from cervical cancer.

In his book A New Kind of Doctor, he described a man, invalided out of the steel industry after a leg fracture, aged 42. With no further use for his big muscular body, he had become obese, had high blood pressure and cholesterol, got gout and was drinking too much. 25 years later, Julian described how, after 310 consultations and 41 hours of work, initially face to face, eventually side by side, the most satisfying and exciting things had been the events that had not happened: no strokes, no heart attacks, no complications of diabetes. He described this as the real stuff of primary medical care.

At a seminar in Glasgow, we asked Julian what happened next. The man had died, of something else, a late-onset cancer I think, but when Julian told us this, there was a tear in his eye. His patient had become his friend.

This was Dr ‘art, without an “H”, as known to his Glyncorrwg patients. None of this explains why Dr Julian Tudor Hart became the most famous general practitioner in the history of the NHS.

In 1961 with large numbers of very sick people, huge visiting lists and a nearby colliery that was still working, the Glyncorrwg practice was extremely busy. His initial base was a wooden hut. It took five years to reach a stable position.

He was the first doctor in the world to measure the blood pressures of all his patients. Famously, Charlie Dixon was the last man to take part, had the highest blood pressure in the village but was still alive 25 years later. Julian became an international authority on blood pressure control in general practice and wrote a book about it which went to three editions and was translated into several languages, with a companion book for patients.

What he did for patients with high blood pressure, he did for other patients, delivering unconditional, personalised continuity of care. After 25 years he showed that premature mortality was almost 30% lower than in a neighbouring village – the only evidence we have of what a general practitioner could achieve in a lifetime of practice.

It’s said that behind every great man there is an astonished woman. Behind Julian, was a great woman. When Deborah Perkin was planning her BBC documentary, the Good Doctor, (which we keep showing to medical students and young doctors), I said to her, there is something you have to understand. There’s two of them. Mary was his partner and anchor every step of the way.

Glyncorrwg was the first general practice in the UK to receive research funding from the Medical Research Council. Mary and Julian had both worked with Archie Cochrane and his team at the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cardiff where they learned a democratic type of research in which everyone’s contribution was important and the study wasn’t complete until everyone had taken part. And so, in Glyncorrwg, there was the Shit Study, the Pee Study, the Salt Studies and the Rat Poison Study, all with astonishing high response rates.

Julian counted as a scientist anyone who measured or audited what they did and was honest with the results. Brecht’s The Life of Galileo was his favourite play and he often quoted Brecht’s line, “The figures compel us.” Julian didn’t pursue scientific knowledge for its own sake. His research always had the direct purpose of helping to improve people’s lives.

He had a talent for the telling phrase. His Inverse Care Law stated that the availability of good medical care tends to vary inversely with the need for it in the population served, or more simply, People without shoes are clearly the ones who need shoes the most.

When Sir Keith Joseph, a Conservative Secretary for Social Services, announced that
“Increased dental charges would give a financial incentive to patients to look after their teeth,” Julian commented, “The government has not yet raised the tax on coffins to reduce mortality, but Sir Keith is assured of a place in the history of preventive medicine.”

Julian’s friend and fellow GP, John Coope from Bollington in Lancashire, admired Julian’s nose for what mattered in the published literature. In his book The Political Economy of Health, that magpie tendency was on display, the footnotes comprising one third of the book and worth reading on their own. A Google search could never assemble such a mix. Goodness knows what readers made of it in the Chinese translation.

He lectured all over the world – in the US, Australia, Kazakhstan, Italy and Spain in particular. Julian could deliver formal lectures but for brilliance and exhilarating an audience he was at his best in impromptu, unscripted exchange.

When principles were at stake, Julian could argue until the cows came home. In his younger years he took no prisoners. A famous medical professor reflected that he had been called many things, but never a snail.

Dr Miriam Stoppard arrived in the village to interview Julian for her TV programme, determined to cast him in the role of a doctor who made life or death decisions concerning his patient’s access to renal dialysis and transplant. They battled for a whole afternoon, Stoppard trying to get Julian to say things on camera that fitted her script. He defied her, ending every sentence by mentioning how much dialysis and transplant surgery the cost of a single Trident missile could buy. She went away defeated and empty-handed.

I was surprised once at Paddington station to see him with a copy of the London Times. He was no fan of the Murdoch press. On boarding the 125 for South Wales, he laid out the newspaper as a tablecloth and over it spread a messy, aromatic Indian carry-out meal. If businessmen in their smart suits wanted to sit next to us, they were very welcome.

Standing for election to the Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Julian topped the poll. What he offered GPs was a credible image of themselves as important members of the medical profession – alongside specialists, not beneath them.

Julian was humble in himself but ambitious for his ideas. He accepted with ambivalence the honours and sentimental treatment that came with age but he never lost his edge, and if we are to celebrate his life it should be by holding to the principles he held dear.

The work of a general practitioner is immeasurably enhanced by working in, with and for a local community, for long enough to make a difference.

Everyone is important, the last person as important as the first, and the work isn’t done until everyone is on board.

Julian was the “worried doctor”, anticipating patients’ problems, not waiting for them to happen, and then avoiding them by joint endeavour.

Drawing on his reading of Marx, he saw health care as a form of production, producing not profits but social value, shared knowledge, confidence, the ability to live better with conditions, achieved not by the doctor alone but by doctors and patients working together. Patients were partners, not customers or consumers.

The NHS should never be a business to make money but a social institution based on mutuality and trust – the ultimate gift economy, getting what you need, giving what you can, a model for how society might run as a whole. In re-building society, co-operation would trump competition, not marginally, but as steam once surpassed horsepower. The Glyncorrwg research studies showed glimpses of that social power.

My daughter Nuala met Julian many times. Losing him as a person, she said, was like the Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art, burning down. We lost someone dear, a big part of our lives, an institution, a one man “School of ‘Art”, full of life, light and creativity.

Julian’s gift to us today is not the example he worked out in the microcosm of a Welsh mining village over 25 years ago; it is the present challenge of how we follow and give practical expression to his values in local communities in the future. In honouring his memory, there is work for all of us do.

 

Professor Graham Watt
MD FRCGP FRSE FMedSci CBE
Emeritus Professor
General Practice and Primary Care
University of Glasgow

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