Extraordinary confessions, a rare strike and a plan

It’s busy in health news today. There’s the NHS strike over pay –  the BBC’s Norman Smith has just reported (at 7.40am) that “Health sec Jeremy Hunt says will sit down and negotiate with NHS unions if they agree to reform pay increments”. This reflects the fact that about half NHS have been getting pay rises through annual incremental increases, although those at the top of their pay bands have not had any increase, and a 1% pay rise for everyone can’t be agreed whilst the automatic pay increases for some remain in place.

What the government need to get across are the choices. On a fixed budget you can’t have pay rises and more staff and still-very-generous pensions, without tax rises. It would  be an interesting question to pose to the public: would you rather pay more tax so NHS staff have a pay rise, or so there are more nurses and doctors on the ward?

The other inconvenient truth for politicians is that we are living in a digital age which is disrupting old ways of working, massively changing the workforce we need and in which many will see their wages in real terms fall. A difficult political message to communicate.

The Tory Party’s admission that reorganising the NHS in the way they did was a big mistake – see exclusive from Chris Smyth, Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester in the Times – is not news to anyone who works in it, but quite EXTRAORDINARY to come out now. Tories have been saying it privately for a long time, but this confession is amazing. Maybe this admission wasn’t supposed to leak, maybe this is the start of a new ‘frankness’ with the public over political mistakes, maybe the powers at Tory Towers think they have time to win back support on the NHS between now and the election if they come clean… then again, maybe not. Whilst we welcome the apology (is it quite that yet?), it puts Jeremy Hunt in an incredibly difficult position. His bosses would do well to get their message clear and consistent from now on – is there a strategy?

The good news is that 2020health meanwhile has an action plan out to tackle Obesity: obesitythumbnailCareless eating costs lives was published yesterday and is available here. We hope all the Political Parties will take a look as, quite honestly, this is a far greater threat to our future and prosperity than ebola.

Recommendations from the report include:

* Introduce tax incentives for larger businesses to make wellbeing provision (such as access to occupational health, nutritionist, gym facilities) available to smaller local businesses.

* Introduce licensing for fast food outlets to control the location and numbers of

outlets in a local community.

* Recognising the positive response to the Responsibility Deal Government should

require all companies to follow the excellent example of participants. The

Responsibility Deal to turn into a legislative framework which is phased in over the

next 5-10 years.

* Practical cookery skills and clear food education to be a compulsory part of the

school curriculum for pupils up to the end of key stage 3 (age 14).

* Clear disclosure of calories per items on restaurant and cafe menus which adhere

to a defined standard for font size, formatting, contrast and layout of menus.

* The ban on advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at children should be extended to

day-time TV, from 7am to 9pm.

* A review needs to be undertaken of the economic and societal impacts of a

hypothecated tax on a range of food and drink contents at levels which are

deemed harmful to health.

* Increase awareness, coordination and reach of the Government’s ‘Healthy Start’ Voucher scheme. Extend voucher scheme to incentivise those who become active partners in their health by quitting smoking, reducing weight, walking a set number of steps etc.

* Establish a cross departmental permanent government task force on obesity. This

supports similar recommendations made by other health organisations.

* All new policies to be reviewed and assessed against an ‘obesity test’.

* Improved screening and normalisation of discussion about diet and weight at

medical appointments.


About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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