Guest blog from Sean Summers, 2020health
Once a year, cities across the UK hosts a season of discussion, promotion, campaigning and networking. The 2013 party conference season is now well underway. While party conference is an opportunity for current and aspiring politicians to have their platform and to rouse the spirit of the political party, it is also attracts journalists, industry, the charity sector, think tanks, and the general public. So many people with an interest and passion for improvement in the same place creates a unique opportunity to generate discussion, debate, to gather information and to influence.
Healthcare is undergoing significant change and it is important that the public and politicians, question our values and approaches to the challenges of providing healthcare to 53 million people across England, and also inform debate in the devolved nations.
For a think tank, like 2020health, attending party conference is an invaluable part of our yearly programme of events. Discussions, meetings, and events bring people together and create the setting to exchange viewpoints. Policies often need review, and a refreshed approach must be taken if we want to see improvement on the ground.
This year 2020health held three panel discussions at the Labour party Conference. There were two aspects of our party conference events that stood out as particularly important to me. Firstly, the controversially titled ‘Are we failing fat children?’ brought together a panel of informative speakers which questioned our attitudes towards children, food, and levels of physical activity. Dan Lawson, Health Manager at Brighton Hove F.C. charity arm – Albion in the Community, who works to improve children’s health every day, spoke frankly for 10 minutes on what works and what does not for an attentive audience to hear. His words were important and impactful, and if only Dan Lawson was consulted about child health policy what changes could we see on a larger scale?
Another key moment for me, was at our final panel discussion of Labour conference 2013 on ‘Candour: the solution to improving quality in the NHS?’. Julie Bailey, Cure the NHS, spoke of her personal experiences of health care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and her struggle to be heard for so many years. Julie has fought for improvement and now embodies the perseverance and strength to stand up against the status-quo and culture within some areas of the NHS. Judy spoke with spoke with humility, calm, and thoughtfulness. With a packed audience, some standing around the edge of the room, and a BBC news crew in waiting, all were listening in still silence. Julie was the focus of everyone’s attention.
It is a reminder of the need to bring stakeholders together for these discussions, to have those working on the ground exchange viewpoints with those directly influencing policy. It is through these events that we can bring those not involved in politics to the foreground and make a point.