"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Conservative Draft Manifesto 2010: Dissection Part 11

An analysis of the Conservative Draft Manifesto 2010.

"[we will] allow new providers to deliver maternity care - especially services like ante- and post-natal support."

The new providers in this sentence gives a clue about the reasoning behind this policy: it is the failed Conservative Patients' Passport policy which was covered in an earlier post. The intention of the Conservatives is to move services away from NHS providers to private providers. Since the public purse has clearly invested large amounts of money over the last decade in NHS services it is incomprehensible why a Conservative government would not want the public to use those services. Perhaps the inclusion of businessmen with private healthcare interests in the Conservative shadow cabinet may explain why the Conservative health policy appears to be so much in favour of private healthcare.

"…allow us to give one million more people access to an NHS dentist and give every five year old a dental check-up"

This is a laudable aim. In the entire manifesto this is the only policy that shows any support for the NHS or for patients.

"we will remove the rules preventing welfare-to-work providers and employers purchasing services from Mental Health Trusts so that many more unemployed people and at-risk workers can be helped."

This is a difficult point to assess. The NHS is a free at the point of delivery service, so patients that need mental health treatment will get that treatment without the intervention of either welfare-to-work providers or employers. The Conservative party needs to explain why these services must be purchased when the NHS is free at the point of delivery.

This specific policy is not mentioned in the 2009 policy document, so it is unclear what it means. The only section in the 2009 policy document on mental health is also fairly thin on details, the significant section says:

"We will make patient choice a reality within mental health through our 'any willing provider' policy, and seek to reduce dependency on powerful and expensive drugs with a focus on alternative therapies."

Notice the use of the term "any willing provider". This is another example of the re-introduction of the failed Patients' Passport.

Mental health services are extremely important, and the implication that they should be the responsibility of employers (or for the unemployed, welfare-to-work providers) is a frightening indication that the Conservatives want to make this area of health only available for payment on demand. The policy also does not mention self employed people, who, of course, do not have an employer. Will this mean that those people who are self employed will be denied mental health care?

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