BGS Policy update Summer 2017
My last policy update was just before the General Election on 8 June. Since then, while I have been continuing to engage in a range of policy activities, a considerable amount of policy-related work has been connected to the election.
Post-election update: the dramatic result which led to the Conservative Party’s loss of its majority also led to some high profile MPs losing their seats. These included several health ministers and former health ministers: Ben Gummer, David Mowat, and Nicola Blackwood, and while Jeremy Hunt remains as Secretary of State for Health, some changes have been made to the ministerial team at the Department of Health. Steve Brine MP has taken up the role of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health with responsibility for public health. Jackie Doyle-Price is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, with responsibility for care and mental health. Philip Dunne remains as Minister of State for Health. Jonathan Ashworth remains as Shadow Secretary of State for Health, and Lord O’Shaughnessy continues as government health spokesperson in the House of Lords.
In June we sent letters from Eileen Burns as President of BGS, to all of these ministers and to Dr Sarah Wollaston who was re-appointed as Chair of the Health Select Committee, congratulating them on their appointments and re-appointment, and seeking meetings. While our offers to meet haven’t been taken up we have had some supportive replies and will keep working to build relationships with some of these key parliamentary stakeholders.
We continue to promote our seven calls for action which we are making in our 70th anniversary year. These were set out in our Manifesto for the 2017 General Election. Our calls to action promote our BGS’s policy priorities so please take the time to read the manifesto if you haven’t already done so, and share with key people whenever an opportunity presents itself. The manifesto was developed for use both before and after the election and we would like you to help by sharing it widely throughout 2017.
Part of my role involves keeping a watching brief on relevant legislation, and working proactively alongside other charities, to influence its development when needed. This June the Queen’s speech set out a legislative programme for two years instead of the usual one year. Parliamentary Bills that we will keep a watching brief on are:
- The Repeal Bill which will transfer all existing EU laws and regulations onto the UK statute
- Immigration Bill which will establish new rules regarding the immigration of EEA nationals into UK
- Draft Patient Safety Bill. This will set out a framework to improve patients’ safety in the NHS. This Bill will establish the Health Service Safety Investigation body in statute, providing it with clear powers to conduct independent and impartial investigations into patient safety risks in the NHS in England.
- Mental Health Bill. This will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the NHS in England.
I will be attending the Labour and Conservative Party conferences at the end of September in Brighton and beginning of October in Manchester, in order to help raise the profile of BGS through attendance at fringe and other networking events. Eileen Burns will be participating in roundtable events hosted by the RCP at both conferences. I am currently identifying sessions of particular relevance to BGS where it would be useful to have member representation and will be arranging for that to happen.
The House of Lords Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS and Social Care published its Inquiry report in April which concluded that while the NHS and adult social care system is sustainable, it is not sustainable in its current form and things need to change. The Committee have recommended radical service transformation as well as long-term funding solutions for the NHS and adult social care, and immediate and sustained action on adult social care. Their key recommendations include the creation of a Health and Care Department, merging NHS England with NHS Improvement, and reforming Health Education England into a ten year forward planning body. It is now down to Government to respond to the Committee’s recommendations.
In July I attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health which discussed the House of Lords report. While there are no clear plans yet from Government on what action they will take to secure the future sustainability of the NHS and social care, the Lords report and parliamentary interest are positive steps. We now await some follow-up to the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that Government will “work to improve social care and bring forward proposals for consultation”.
The Care Quality Commission published a consultation on their regulatory approach to health and social care in June which focuses on how they will implement their vision for a ‘more targeted, responsive and collaborative approach to regulation, so that more people get high-quality care’. We have sent in a consultation response from BGS which we will publish on our website once the consultation closes.
A resource published by the Royal College of Physicians, Medical Care, which is for clinicians and managers working in the NHS. The RCP have said that they would greatly appreciate it if you are able to share the latest version of medical care with your networks. The resource can be found at www.rcpmedicalcare.org.uk.
A joint publication by Skills for health, Health Education England and Skills for Care who announced a new framework to support person-centred approaches in health care on 26 July 2017. The purpose of the framework is to help the health and care workforce to put person-centred approaches into practice and to create sustained behavioural change.
I’d like to end this column with a reminder of how important your contribution is to BGS’s policy and influencing work. If you are involved in any particularly innovative projects that you think it would be useful for us to highlight in meetings with key opinion formers and decisions makers, or have other issues you would like us to promote, please do get in touch with me, Caroline Cooke,