The Conservative Draft Manifesto on Health published yesterday is a remarkable document. In just three pages it sets out a series of core proposals for transforming the NHS, a well-intentioned but flabby and under-performing monolith, into a health service fit for the 21st century.
The central themes running through the proposals are:
- Reduced political interference in healthcare delivery
Cut bureaucracy, eliminate externally set process targets, put power and resources back into the hands of healthcare professionals
- Creating a culture of efficiency in healthcare delivery
Open up delivery to independent and voluntary sector providers, pay GPs by reward, introduce value-based pricing for medicines
- Offering consumers more appropriate choice
Let patients choose where to get care, give GPs control of funds to commission specialist care, give mothers the choice of where to have their baby, give consumers better information on performance of trusts and healthcare providers
Many of these themes are generic and could be applied to other domains where state intervention and control has driven costs upwards and consumer power downwards in recent years. Education springs to mind. I look forward to similar manifesto promises in other areas of public service reform.
What I find particularly satisfying in the proposals, however, is that they are evidence-based and demonstrate commitment to pragmatic government. Having lived in France and experienced the excellent public health system there, I can see that lessons have been learned from nations which already embrace this approach.
I am also really pleased to see focus on the role of the third sector in delivering worldclass healthcare. EACH, the regional children’s hospice of which I am a trustee, is one of a pioneering group of voluntary organisations that work in collaboration with public health and social services. Abandoning the exclusive approach of traditional hospices, EACH works alongside other healthcare providers to deliver their specialist support as part of a portfolio of services with the child at the centre. Much of this has only become possible through investment in training and in systems that allow information to be exchanged freely between healthcare providers.
The Draft Manifesto also underlines the commitment to continuing financial support to specialist and third sector providers, such as hospices, through per-patient funding of palliative care.
All in all there is much to welcome in the Conservative proposals published yesterday. As Julia Manning suggests on the Blue Blog, you can even make your voice heard on the future of the NHS by submitting or rating questions for David Cameron on the Conservatives Draft Manifesto page. I strongly recommend that you take a look!