Election manifestos must reflect real issues facing NHS and social care

Downing-Street-DoorA coalition of health and care stakeholders has challenged political parties to accept seven ‘burning issues’ facing the health and care system, and to produce election manifestos that allow the NHS and social care the space to address them.

With exactly one year until the 2015 general election, the national-level partnership – representing patient groups, clinicians, staff, senior leaders and councillors – has rallied behind the NHS Confederation’s 2015 Challenge.

Election pledges

The 2015 Challenge calls on politicians to develop and stand by election pledges that recognise the need for change in the health and care system and which facilitate it at a local level.

The Confederation has produced a ‘declaration’ it wants all party leaders to sign up to.

The 2015 Challenge Declaration calls on current and future politicians and decision makers to be honest with the public, staff and media about the challenges facing the health and care system, and what needs to be done to solve these challenges, so the system remains fit for purpose.

‘Burning issues’

The Declaration sets out seven challenges which must be addressed:

  • The need challenge – meeting the rising demand for care, particularly from people with complex needs or long-term conditions, while maintaining people’s wellbeing and preventing ill health for as long as possible.
  • The culture challenge – building confidence in the health service by achieving a fundamental shift in culture from the bottom up. Creating a more open and transparent NHS, which enables patients, citizens and communities to be partners in decisions, and staff to improve care.
  • The design challenge – redesigning the health and care system to reflect the needs of people now – and so that it remains sustainable in the future. Shifting more care closer to people’s homes, while maintaining great hospital care. A focus on joining up all parts of the health and care system so care revolves around the needs and capacities of individuals, families and communities.
  • The finance challenge – recognising the financial pressures on all parts of the system and squeezing value from every penny of public money spent on health and care. Debating honestly and openly the future levels and sources of funding for health and social care.
  • The leadership challenge – creating value-based, system leaders across the NHS and empowering them to improve health and wellbeing for local people. Supporting these local leaders to work in partnership with a wide range of health, care and related organisations to address the 2015 Challenge, involve patients and citizens as leaders, and have the resilience to make the biggest changes in the recent history or health and care.
  • The workforce challenge – planning for a workforce to better match changing demand. Developing staff roles and skills to provide complex, multidisciplinary, coordinated care, in partnership with individuals and communities and more often in community settings.
  • The technology challenge – using technology to help transform care and enabling people to access information and treatment in a way that meets their needs. Spreading innovation to improve the quality of care while responding to the financial challenge facing the NHS and care system.

‘No illusion’

Launching the Declaration today (6 May), the head of the NHS Confederation said it is vital that whichever party comes to power in 2015, there is no illusion about the urgency or severity of the need for change, and stressed that the readiness needs to come from health and care organisations themselves, as well as politicians.

‘Overwhelming body of evidence’

NHS Confederation chief executive, Rob Webster, said: “There is an overwhelming body of evidence that change in the NHS and social care is essential – as leaders of the health  and care system, we know it, patients know it, clinicians and practitioners of all specialties know it, and politicians know it”.

The NHS Confederation collaborated with a number of strategic partners to produce the 2015 Challenge Declaration, and a wider body of stakeholders to shape the overall 2015 Challenge, drawing on the expertise of leaders and influencers from all parts of the health and care system.

‘Comprehensive view’

Dame Gill Morgan, the independent chair of the stakeholder group, said: “Those of us with significant experience of the health service know that the body of evidence for change is not a recent find. Where the 2015 Challenge is different is that it brings all parts of the system together with a comprehensive view of the evidence.

“We will now work together to harness our joint energy on a future vision and solutions on behalf of the patients, the public, and the NHS and care system.”

‘Purdah paralysis’

Mr Webster went on to say: “What we have seen in past elections is a kind of ‘purdah paralysis’. The 18-24 months in the run-up to a general election sees all parties wary of demonstrating the bold leadership crucial for the future of the health service, and local health economies unable to engage in the difficult but essential conversations they need to have with local communities, staff and patients.

‘Don’t stand in the way’

“The scale and pace of change needed means that it is vital that health and care services start changing as soon as the new Government is elected, and that politicians do not stand in the way.

“If we do not achieve a post-election readiness for change, it is very possible the current basis of the NHS – free for all at the point of need –will become unsustainable,” he warned.

A poll of MPs from all major parties revealed cross-party consensus that the NHS needs to change at a local level to meet the needs of patients in the future.

“The Declaration sets out seven challenges which must be addressed. We are calling on those whose policies, pledges and politics can make the NHS succeed or fail to explicitly recognise them as the burning issues facing health and social care in England, and to embark on an open and honest conversation with the public about the choices and consequences involved in tackling them.”.









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