The Open Manifesto on Health
We are committed to retaining the National Health Service and the provision of medical care free at the point of need. Nevertheless we will carry out continuing studies on the structure and management of the service.
We will continue research into preventative medicine and, where evidence supports it, we will ensure that resources are appropriately targeted. Some public health measures are more intractable than others: it is a lot easier to use public health measures to prevent cholera than to prevent type II diabetes, so the latter is now a much greater problem. Action in other policy areas – such as transport, social policy and housing – may be more effective against diabetes than action by the Health Department.
The rise in the number and cost of NHS managers may not necessarily be a bad thing. If managers can do management tasks more efficiently than clinicians, it should allow clinicians to spend more of their time treating patients. On the other hand, management practices may impose procedures on clinicians making them less effective at treating patients. Until we actually carry out some studies on this, it is impossible to know. Therefore, we will not make empty promises to replace NHS managers; instead, we will get the evidence first and act accordingly.
By far the biggest cost in the NHS is staff costs, and improvements in the pay and working conditions of doctors and nurses after eighteen years of malign neglect under the 79-97 Tory administration have accounted for much of the increased funding provided by Labour. This is not lost or wasted expenditure; it was long overdue.
We will reform pharmaceutical procurement and the patent system in the pharmaceutical sector. We will separately contract with pharmaceutical companies and research institutions to develop treatments for prevalent and costly diseases, but we will introduce a system of compulsory patent licences for pharmaceuticals so that the cost of individual treatments is limited to direct manufacturing costs and does not cover the costs of research and development. The aim should be to take the sales uncertainty out of pharmaceutical business planning, so that products are developed to improve patient outcomes rather than to maximise sales to healthcare providers.