London Tuesday 20th May 2008 10am-4pm

The Labour Party’s policy documents were published on 2nd May (this link is restricted to Party Members). We have until 20th June to produce amendments to the proposals which will be debated at the National Policy Forum session starting on 24th July.

This seminar is to discuss the documents as they relate to health care and public health and consider possible amendments. It will be practically focussed and participative.

Notes of the discussion (NB this meeting was not in a position to make any decisions, but John’s note is fair summary of the main issues)

Main issue

To move back to the LP’s manifesto commitment in 1997 which states: “Our fundamental purpose is simple and hugely important: to restore the NHS as a public service working cooperatively for patients, not a commercial business driven by competition.”

This means moving away from some of the reforms which have introduced which undermine this commitment by introducing private companies into the delivery of healthcare. The document should resist in particular the privatisation of primary care which undermines the autonomy in the relationship between the clinician and patient where trust is essential and returns to shareholders (paid for by taxpayers) can interfere with that relationship. We should emphasise the need for integration within the health system, between specialties and between primary and secondary care and, indeed, between health and social care, so ensuring effective care pathways.

Accountability

It is proposed that democratic accountability be established at local authority level either by having direct elections to Primary Care Trusts or, preferably, by councils taking over control of PCTs. Having councillors on PCT boards will ensure that local people have proper influence on local health services so achieving public involvement in the democratic process.

Choice

The objective should be genuine patient involvement and empowerment. This means that they have effective influence on how, not just where, they are to be treated in consultation with the appropriate clinician, GP or specialist, as ‘co-producers’. Coupled with this should be methods developed to ensure every NHS unit is delivering healthcare to a satisfactory quality and performance level.

Dentistry

This section of the document is weak. The two paragraphs on the dental service are inadequate and do not take account of the number of dentists who continue to either leave the NHS or, more commonly, to move a higher proportion of their work into private provision. There is at present no measure available of a whole time equivalent of work done under the NHS.

The mention of fluoridation is to be welcome but the government should do much more to ensure conurbations such as Liverpool. Manchester and London are fluoridated. Only in this way can the oral health of deprived populations be brought up to that of the better off areas.

JL

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