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What would a campaign for real health look like?

9th July 2009

Writing for OnMedica News, Martin Rathfelder, Director of the Socialist Health Association in Manchester, says Labour should get tough on the causes of illness.

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Since coming to power, Labour has overseen the growth of the British Health Industry from £30 billion to almost £110 billion.

Despite this, there has been little for patients to get excited about in terms of choice.

There are more “shiny hospitals” that have been built with borrowed money that will have to be repaid of the next 30 years.

Yet amid all the reorganisation, the main business of the NHS both in primary and secondary care, has remained stable.

Patterns of health inequality have not changed, despite much discussion over it. The best that can be claimed is that the patterns of inequality found in 1997 have not got worse.

But if the NHS was to stage real campaigns to become more efficient it would have to focus on "real prevention", "real reductions in inequality" and real choice, involvement and integration.

While there is evidence of simple measures such as reducing smoking and increasing activity being effective in health improvement, Labour has failed to tackle this area because it conflicts with the strategy for economic growth.

As for choice, people do not want choice of where they are treated but more choice about where they are treated, while repeated reorganisation of public involvement mechanisms has increased cynicism.

There needs to be real integration with movement away from the present system of payment by results, toward linking payment to outcomes.

 

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