Saving the NHS
The Health and Social Care Bill
What’s this about?
The Conservatives believe in the NHS and its core principles – that treatment should be free when you need it, regardless of your ability to pay.
That’s why the coalition government is committed to increasing health spending, despite the current financial pressures it faces.
But, with an ageing population and rising costs of drugs and treatments, the NHS needs to be modernised if it is to be protected for future generations.
That’s what this Bill aims to do.
What’s the problem?
The number of people aged over 85 in this country will double in the next twenty years. At the same time, new medicines are coming on stream all the time. While both these things are extremely positive, it does mean that costs are rising at an unaffordable rate.
Meanwhile, under Labour, money was wasted on bureaucracy, inefficient systems and bad PFI deals which are costing us a fortune that could be spent on treatment.
During Labour’s time in office, productivity in hospitals declined by 15%, while the number of managers in the NHS increased six times as fast as the number of nurses.
Quite simply, unless we make changes soon, our NHS will become unaffordable and we won’t be able to provide the quality of free healthcare that everyone expects and that we all want to see.
The Health and Social Care Bill is about saving the NHS for future generations.
What are the proposals?
The government wants to free doctors and nurses to get on with their jobs and focus on quality, not narrow bureaucratic targets. It wants patients to have the right to a greater say in decisions about their care. And it wants to make sure that more money gets straight to the frontline where it makes a real difference to patients.
So, the proposals will:
· Shift power and decision-making to GPs so they can get the best health care for their patients
The Bill abolishes two layers of bureaucracy – the Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) – with the aim of cutting management costs by 45% while placing the money for healthcare directly into the hands of local GPs, who will decide together how to spend that money, working with other health professionals, like nurses, in what will be called Clinical Commissioning Groups.
· Encourage GPs to give patients more choice
GPs will be able to get health care from the NHS and other organisations. They must get the best treatments, not the cheapest. Introducing greater choice and competition in the NHS is something that has gradually been happening over the past ten years or so – even under Labour. Competition and choice are good for patients. They help ensure that money is spent efficiently and that patients get the very best treatment. This Bill will develop that further.
· It creates a joined-up approach and local accountability
The setting up of Health and Wellbeing Boards in local authority areas (with one for Suffolk) will mean that doctors, other health workers, councillors and patients will work together to provide a joined-up approach to keeping people healthy and making people better.
- It creates a level playing field for healthcare providers
The Bill puts the NHS, not-for-profit organisations, charities and health companies on the same footing, so eradicating the system which occurred under Labour, which discriminated in favour of private health companies doing work, such as knee operations. This will make it easier for charities like Macmillan Cancer Support to expand their brilliant cancer care programmes across the NHS.
- It will place a responsibility on the NHS to reduce health inequalities
As the British Medical Journal commented in 2005, after eight years of Labour government: “The difference between the life expectancy of the richest and poorest in our country is now greater than at any time since Queen Victoria’s reign”. It has continued to grow since then. The Bill makes it law that the NHS must work to make sure people everywhere get the same great level of health
· It will scrap a large number of targets
Many of the targets imposed on the NHS by the last government were bureaucratic and produced a number of unintended consequences which negatively affected patient care. The new proposals will do away with the bureaucratic targets, while ensuring that the guarantees which benefit patients and are clinically justified will remain.
For example, a focus purely on waiting times is no help at all when a quarter of patients with cancer are only diagnosed after an emergency. The Bill will change the focus onto actual results which matter as well, like survival rates from cancer.
Ultimately, Conservatives believe in the NHS.
The Health and Social care Bill will modernise it and make it fit for the future, for us, our families, and for generations to come.