PHSO Pressure Group attend Guardian live NHS debate.

Guardian pictureOn the 20th January two members of the PHSO Pressure Group attended the Guardian live NHS debate –

Behind the headlines:  Is there a future for the NHS?  


The debate was chaired by Denis Campbell, Guardian Health Correspondent and the panel consisted of Norman Lamb MP, Lib Dem Minister for Care and support,  Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England Medical Director, Dr. Mark Porter, chair of the BMA and Julia Manning, CEO of think tank 2020 Health.

In theory, the panel had 45 minutes to individually put across their personal answer to the question and then a discussion would take place where panel members answered questions from the audience.

We settled back into our seats to listen to the great and the good hoping for an opportunity to put our question to the panel in the second half of the debate.

Dr. Mark Porter, took pole position and kicked off with some pretty strong statements.  He confirmed that the provision of healthcare was the mark of a civilised country, however the NHS was starved of funds and the top down reorganisation had done nothing to improve the problems with delivering healthcare in this country.  His solution was to take marketing out of healthcare and give proper government funding.   This view was later endorsed by an on-line poll (and show of hands) from the audience who voted overwhelmingly for less private sector involvement in the NHS.

Sir Bruce Keogh, was the next to speak and put into context some of the problems facing the NHS which all came down to funding in one form or another.  They were, increased costs, increased demand, ageing population and greater expectations all compounded by lack of funding due to a global crisis. He said that a successful NHS needed to be based on values, driven by evidence and focused on outcomes.

Normal Lamb MP, spoke of an £8 billion gap in funding by 2020 and the pressure lack of funding put on delivery of NHS services.  He is a passionate mental health campaigner and believes that mental health issues should be on a par with physical health.  He termed the current provision as,’ health discrimination’.  He called for increased health prevention measures and improved integration of services to save money. Although Mr. Lamb spoke critically of government reorganisation in the NHS he did not vote against the Health and Social Care Bill in 2012.  He was also shown to be out of touch when he stated that TTIP would not affect the NHS which triggered loud responses of ‘rubbish’ from the audience.  Obviously if the government wanted to protect NHS from TTIP they could put a veto on it, but have consistently refused to do so, leaving it open to cherry picking from the USA.

Julia Manning, was the last to speak and talked of her first hand experiences supporting patients in her work as an Optometrist and her experience of social inequality through the work of her husband, who is a comprehensive school deputy head teacher in London. She also spoke openly about her own experience of being diagnosed with mental health issues when she was 22.  She found that there was a false divide between mental health issues and the physical symptoms she experienced as part of her condition.  As a result of her experiences she became a passionate campaigner for improvements to public health and founder of the think tank Health 2020.

The panel and invited guests managed to spend an hour talking among themselves and when the first question was taken from the audience all panel members were asked for their response.  Denis Campbell, the chair then asked supplementary questions based on these responses and the time crept away with many members of the audience, including ourselves, sitting with our burning questions and no opportunity to contribute to the debate.

In frustration,  I found myself calling out, ‘When it is our turn to speak’ and the panel finally wrapped up their personal discussion and started to take questions from the audience.  Unfortunately, this part of the debate was now rushed with audience members continually being asked to be ‘brief’.  Having drawn attention to our part of the room I was in due course handed the microphone and was able to put a question on behalf of the PHSO Pressure Group.  Given that money was the key focus of this debate I asked the following question:

The NHS Litigation Authority are sitting on a £21 Billion backlog in litigation payments, this money could be used for front line services.  Many people are forced to take legal action because the regulatory system lets them down.  When will there be a Parliamentary debate on the role of the Ombudsman? 

The answer from Mr. Lamb was that there was no debate presently on the table but in his opinion the new duty of candour would make a significant difference.  Julia Manning also commented that the move to put NHS records on-line for direct access by patients would also help complainants.  Neither of these really got to the heart of the question, but we planted a seed possibly.

You can see the whole debate here:

Della Reynolds from PHSO Pressure Group with Julia Manning from Health 2020.

Della Reynolds from PHSO Pressure Group with Julia Manning from Health 2020.

Della Reynolds from PHSO Pressure Group with Sir Bruce Keogh.

Della Reynolds from PHSO Pressure Group with Sir Bruce Keogh.