A sound society will aim to minimise avoidable sickness and incapacity and to ensure speedy and unfettered access to effective advice and treatment wherever possible. This is a function of the State at least as vital to the citizen as external or internal security. Health and social care services, however, are only the most visible part of the picture, picking up the pieces when other avenues have failed. There needs to be a ‘whole government’ approach.
Prevention is better than cure. Individuals must take personal responsibility for their own well-being, but they cannot and should not be expected to do so in isolation. In comparing the relative death tolls of extreme Left and extreme Right during the 20th century, historians have little to say about the victims of the extreme Centre. These are the deaths from hypothermia, unsafe housing, air pollution, poor diet, stress, alcoholism, tobacco, lack of health insurance, and much besides. In The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, Friedrich Engels wrote of ‘social murder’ as the result of blocking access to the means of sustenance: “no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission”. The Grenfell Tower fire in London drew attention again to Engels’ argument. Accelerating ecological collapse and climate change give it additional dimensions. There needs to be a ‘whole society’ approach.
The NHS does not function to its full potential because it lacks the convalescent capacity to care for patients no longer in acute need but still too ill to return home. The result is ‘bed-blocking’. To avoid this, health and social care need to be more closely integrated. There needs to be a ‘whole system’ approach.
The welfare-state principle of care ‘from cradle to grave’, free at the point of use and freed from the profit motive, continues to underpin national policy in England. Nevertheless, gaps have been allowed to develop that threaten to undermine its credibility. There needs to be a ‘whole life’ approach.
Short Term – campaigning within the UK – Wessex Regionalists will:
Campaign for more responsible policies that ensure:
- a unified health and social care service, free at the point of use
- an end to private sector involvement in NHS provision
- NHS decisions are taken openly and full information is relayed back to local communities by councillors serving on NHS bodies
- the abolition of hospital parking charges
- joined-up thinking on the social determinants of health.
Long Term – in a fully devolved region – Wessex Regionalists will:
- spend more on preventive measures and public health
- democratise the decisions made within the NHS on spending priorities and involve local communities more in the management of hospitals
- re-introduce free eye tests and dental treatment and abolish prescription charges.