Debating the future of the NHS

The latest event on the Westminster Health Forum calendar, titled: The future of the NHS- post the revised Health and Social Care Bill, allowed attendees from across the health spectrum to learn more about and debate the potential effect of the Health and Social Care Bill.

During the course of the discussion it became clear that there remains a great deal of opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill, in particular from clinicians. Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the British Medical Association used his presentation to say that the NHS required ‘evolution not revolution’ and attack the structural re-organisation inherent in the Government’s reforms.

However, throughout the course of the session, it became clear that there was a level of agreement on the changes that needed to be made to strengthen and improve the NHS. Integration between Health, Social Care, and as Stephen Dorrell MP indicated, Social Housing, was earmarked as an essential evolution. Likewise the majority of speakers suggested that commissioning done well was a key part of the future of the NHS.

It was clear that debate on the Health and Social Care Bill is set to continue however. Liz Kendall MP, Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, firmly stated the Labour Party’s opposition to the Bill, dismissing it as; “the wrong Bill at completely the wrong time.” She indicated that, in the opinion of the Labour Party, the proposed reforms would end up causing more harm than good.

Elsewhere questions were raised over the public and politicians’ expectations of the NHS. Dr Meldrum believed the NHS had “probably been a victim of its own success.” He also levelled opprobrium at the media, being joined by Dr Clare Gerada, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners in criticising the press for a negative portrayal of the NHS which had led to a distorted view among members of the public.

In broad terms the debate indicated that the Government still has much work to do if it is to achieve a positive consensus of support for its proposals. While there was significant agreement on the areas in which the Health Service needs to improve, there was discord on the best way to go about achieving those aims.

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