2020health at the Labour Party Conference: the EU, childhood obesity and candour in the NHS

We’re at the Labour Party Conference all day today, Monday 23rd September, in the Paganini Room at the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton. We’re outside the secure zone so no Party Conference Pass is needed. Here’s an idea of what we’ll be talking about.

9.00am: Does the EU benefit our health?

Do we really understand the role of the EU on health? When we talk about Europe we often talk about freedoms, migration, business and economics. We discuss leaving the EU, due to the impact of bureaucracy, migration issues and the economy; on the other hand we very rarely discuss the impact the EU has on health.

Every day doctors and students travel and share information freely across the EU, developing partnerships and networks which benefit research and development of innovative technologies, medicines and healthcare programmes. There is a lot to be gained from sharing experiences and international research collaborations. The EU has directly impacted the field of medical and health care research and development.

Other EU legislation which has directly impacted the health in the UK includes the European Working Times Directive and the EU Cross Border Directive and health and safety directives.  All of which have received varying degrees of negative comment.

  • Do we really understand the impact of the EU on healthcare in this country and does it matter?
  • Are there dangers to healthcare and the healthcare industry in this country from leaving the EU or staying in?
  • What opportunities are there for the UK to learn from other countries health policies and systems and capitalise on our membership.
  • Can the UK take a greater leadership role in public health and healthcare in the EU?

12.30pm: Are we failing fat children?

In the past year, children’s diets and eating habits have rarely been out of the headlines. Some children are not being given breakfast at home and show a lack of concentration at school. At the same time, childhood obesity is on the increase. Statistics show that 25% of boys and 33% of girls aged between two and 19 years in the UK are overweight or obese. This not only affects children’s physical health and their ability to participate in sports, but also their mental health and social inclusion.

Between 2000-2009 there was a fourfold increase in the number of children admitted to hospital with an obesity-related condition, with medical complications such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties whilst sleeping and asthma. In addition to this, it was noted that a forty fold increase in teenagers (some as young as thirteen) undergoing gastric bypass surgery in the same period. There has to be an answer to this crisis which does not involve children requiring surgery.

Are overweight children so commonplace that we don’t recognise children as being overweight? 80% of parents of overweight children did not consider their child as overweight, until they were told to by the NCMP. Is this a question of social readjustment, or more education needed?

Ultimately, this is not a problem that will go away, and the result of the spiraling obesity epidemic will be a huge cost to the UK and to society; not just in terms of national spending, but social and emotional development of young people across the country.

5.30pm: Candour – the solution to improving quality in the NHS?

The Francis Report was published in February 2013. Robert Francis QC concluded that patients were routinely neglected by a NHS Trust that focused on cost cutting, targets and processes. Crucially, he criticised the fundamental structure of the NHS and the fact that staff who spoke out felt ignored, or worse, bullied.

Francis talked about the need for an obligation of ‘candour’ in staff, and that there needs to be a culture in the NHS where complaints are seen as an opportunity to learn and improve. The question is not whether or not this needs to happen—as clearly the tragic stories which emerged from Mid-Staffordshire NHS display—but what needs to change for an obligation of candour to flourish? The NHS needs more than new processes and new boxes to tick to truly beat the spectre of Mid-Staffs: a fundamental change in mindset needs to take place.

The concept of a duty of candour already exists in the NHS; consequently it does not seem to be a duty of candour that is the problem, but a culture of candour.

  • What are the practical implications of a “duty of candour”? Is it a realistic prospect?
  • What is it that will change the culture in the NHS, and who is ultimately responsible?
  • What does the new covenant need to look like between the public and the NHS in order to restore public faith?
  • Can we ever restore public faith in the NHS? Will a duty of candour be enough?
  • Can the UK take a greater leadership role in public health and healthcare in the EU?


This entry was posted in Candour, Childhood Obesity, EU, Francis report, NHS and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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