This policy was passed by Left Unity’s national conference on 29 March 2014.
Policies to improve health
Move to minimise social and economic inequality. Every step that reduces inequality can be shown to improve the health of all parts of society. All Left Unity policies should consider their impact on the social determinants of health.
The development of new, and improvement of existing, social factors on health such as improved social housing, access to good education, healthy food, healthy environment, exercise facilities etc.
Healthcare planning and provision should include a focus on the social determinants of health as a means of preventing ill health. This means that resources should be distributed across the country according to the pattern of need.
Defence of the environment to minimise any health impacts.
The NHS is central to healthcare provision. The following policies are vital to defend and improve it:
The Secretary of State for Health should be responsible for all NHS healthcare provision.
Every part of the NHS should be defended as a publicly run, publicly owned system providing free care. Where this is not the case it should be reversed.
Access to health care should be universal and equitable.
Health care should be funded out of taxation (and borrowing where necessary – e.g. as GDP fluctuates annually).
Market forces have no place in state healthcare provision.
Better ways of integrating the provision of healthcare and social care should be investigated and implemented.
Health education ties the health system to the education system and should be developed as a form of co-operation between the two.
Healthcare provision and planning should be based on evidence and outcomes and excellence should be the norm.
Mental health services have been shamefully neglected over decades and need to be expanded and integrated into the broader NHS. Workforce planning and training of staff should be dependent upon the needs of the NHS.
Health care planning and provision should include a focus on workplace health and ensuring that the physical, chemical, biological and psychological risks in all workplaces are aggressively minimised.
A real weakness of the original NHS is that of poor democratic accountability. We need a modern system in which employees, councillors, patients and carers are represented on all appropriate health bodies. This should help to ensure that the NHS has the flexibility to ensure that local and regional needs are catered for.
In accordance with Left Unity policy, members must consider joining Keep Our NHS Public and other relevant bodies. They should also consider involvement in public health bodies like Clinical Commissioning Groups, Healthwatch and Hospital and other Trusts, the purpose being to defend the remains of an integrated service and resist commodification and especially privatisation at every opportunity.
As a long-term goal, we need to work towards a single integrated NHS. An integrated NHS would eliminate the so-called purchaser/provider split. This is a costly way to create an internal market. It sets parts of the NHS against each other to no good purpose and costs up to 14% of the entire NHS budget annually just to maintain.
The private pharmaceutical industry exploits patients and the NHS. Left Unity will campaign to expose the anti-social behaviour of Big Pharma, to restrict its powers, and ultimately to replace it with a non-profit and accountable system of pharmaceutical production. Towards that end, we will immediately ban pharmaceutical company representatives from NHS premises, where their only role is to distort clinical practice. We will insist on the publication in full of all clinical trials data, past and present. We will aim to take Continuing Medical Education (for already qualified and experienced doctors) out of the hands of Big Pharma by providing publicly-funded alternatives. We will also seek to promote generic production of drugs and to challenge the monopolies created by the current restrictive regime of Intellectual Property Rights. Towards that end we will seek to collaborate with other countries pursuing similar policies. We believe that private profit has no place and plays no positive role in the development and dissemination of drugs. Therefore we will aim to build publicly-owned alternatives to Big Pharma.
Health research is essential and the intense competition for funds should be scaled back. The money saved on sterile bidding for funding could be used to expand the total amount of research. Research has to be encouraged at all levels of provision and aimed where the NHS requires it. This goes from work on genetics to the study of the daily practice of GPs and community health workers.
Our plan to re-instate, protect, and improve the NHS
1. Repeal the Health and Social Care Act to restore the NHS as a publicly delivered, publicly funded and publicly accountable healthcare system, and re-establish the position of the Health Secretary as fully accountable for providing comprehensive health care. The most practical solution is to back Lord Owen’s NHS re-instatement bill, which we fully support.
2. Re-instate the NHS as the preferred provider of healthcare. This will protect the NHS as a public service by minimising private sector takeover of NHS services
3. Abolish the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Renegotiate and buy out contracts at realistic value.
Any publicly owned banks must cancel PFI contracts before re-privatisation. Stop and reverse the outsourcing of clinical and support services related to PFI projects.
4. Moratorium on A&E and hospital closures. Any reconfigurations must be clinically, not financially driven, and must show they have won public and professional support for alternative, improved services.
5. Reduce the Department of Health’s reliance on expensive external management consultants who have too much influence on health policy. Instead the DH should re-engage with the representative bodies of frontline NHS professionals, as well as patient groups, to develop and plan future NHS policy in the most clinically effective and sustainable manner
6. Ensure evidenced-based adequate staff to patient ratios and bed numbers in order to maintain safe, effective, and high quality patient care.
7. Improve accountability and transparency of the NHS by empowering community health bodies and combining them with external peer review of hospitals and GP practices. Reviewing and strengthening the NHS complaints process and improving the ease of access, and protection for whistle blowers will also contribute to patient trust and confidence.
8. Use the purchasing power (monopoly status) of the NHS to improve NHS procurement practices in order to reduce costs of drugs, medical devices and general supplies. Ensure those in charge of NHS purchasing power allocations have no conflict of interest arising from a financial benefit to be gained from selecting a particular product. E.g. they do not own shares in pharmaceutical companies, or other medical supply companies or corporations or trusts which support medical suppliers.
9. Strongly focus on dealing with the social determinants of health, such as poverty, income inequalities, unemployment, poor housing, social exclusion, lack of child care etc. Prioritise public health and social care.
10. Exempt the NHS from the EU/US Free Trade Agreement, which otherwise threatens to open up our healthcare system to irreversible privatisation
11. We will end cuts and privatisation in the health service. We will ensure that the NHS is fully-funded so that the needs of all patients can be met efficiently and promptly with the best available treatments. We will cancel the PFI debts – relieving the NHS of a huge and unsustainable financial burden and ending this form of corporate exploitation of the taxpayer. We will reverse the decline in real wages of health service workers.
This further motion was passed at Left Unity’s conference on 15-16 November 2014.
NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015
Left Unity Shall with immediate effect, endorse and join as a Supporter of the Campaign for NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015 launched on the 4th of October and co-ordinate with other organisations that are supporters such as Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), London Health Emergency, Open Democracy (Our NHS), Green Party England and Wales and the Politics of Health Group (plus any other organisations that come out in support of this campaign) to launch a Large Scale Campaign in England to highlight the damage being done to the NHS England that will push NHS England into the history books and also to help change the narrative on health throughout the whole of the UK so that “NHS Wales” and “Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland” are protected from further squeezing by the Westminster Central Government where cuts are being enforced via restriction of those nations Assembly budgets and NHS Scotland which is better protected by the general political climate in Scotland and the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Background information – summary of the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015:
In short, the Bill proposes to reverse 25 years of marketisation in the NHS by abolishing the purchaser-provider split, re-establishing public bodies and fully restoring the NHS in England as an accountable public service. It draws on some of the best examples of NHS administration over its history, retains some features of the 2012 reforms and would be implemented on a timescale determined by the Secretary of State.
Reinstate the government’s duty to provide the NHS in England, re-establish NHS England as a special health authority with regional committees and modified functions,
Re-establish District Health Authorities, with Family Health Services Committees to administer arrangements with GPs, dentists and others,
Abolish marketised bodies such as NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts and clinical commissioning groups, as well as Monitor, the regulator of NHS foundation trusts and commercial companies
End virtually all commissioning and allow commercial companies to provide services only if the NHS could not do so and otherwise patients would suffer,
Re-establish Community Health Councils to represent the interest of the public in the NHS, stop licence conditions taking effect which have been imposed by Monitor on NHS foundation trusts and that will have the effect of reducing by April 2016 the number of services that they currently have to provide, bring the terms and conditions of staff employed in providing NHS services under the NHS Staff Council, prohibit ratification of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and other international treaties without the approval of Parliament (and the devolved bodies) if they would cover the NHS.)
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