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

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Conservative Draft Manifesto 2010: Dissection Part 12

An analysis of the Conservative Draft Manifesto 2010.

Improving the Nation's Public Health

"we will turn the Department of Health into a Department of Public Health"

Orwellian, or what? This is spin. The Department of Health know that their work is for the public, so what is the need for a name change? It seems quite amazing that a government that says that it will be an austerity government on a scale that we have not seen for 60 years will want to waste money on a re-branding exercise. There are zero benefits to the public from this policy.

"we will provide separate public health funding to local authorities"

It is unclear why local authorities are expected to be experts on public health. In fact, the Conservatives probably do not expect them to be, and the devil, as they say, will be in the details.

So if local authorities do not have this expertise, where will they get it from? It is easy to assume that a Conservative government would expect local authorities to use this money to purchase public health solutions from the private sector. This is not new money, it is just money re-directed from the current NHS public health budgets towards predominately Conservative-controlled councils. In the 2009 health policy document the Conservatives say "As part of the national strategy for public health, we need to ensure that the corporate responsibility of business, and the ability of businesses to contribute to the promotion of healthier living, is fully and successfully engaged". This sounds very much like a hint of private sector involvement.

The public health budget is about £3bn (about 2.5% of the NHS budget) and if the Conservative policy will result in that money being channelled from existing NHS providers to private sector providers then that will be a huge back-door privatisation. This is consistent with Conservative policy in the NHS which is to cut the state involvement as much as possible and transfer the funds to the private sector.

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