Towards a National Pharmaceutical Service

There are some problems which are too big for the private sector to handle. I’ve given extensive arguments explaining why this is the case for climate change and why solutions will require public ownership of energy. However, there is another set of less well known problems which are going to require similar state action: those around pharmaceutical companies.

While there is a certain amount of hysteria and fear-mongering about “big pharma”, the drug companies are far from innocent. There are well known cases of companies withholding and manipulating data. Health authorities are periodically hit by shortages of vital drugs due to supply chain problems or cessation of manufacturing. Companies demand high prices for patented drugs and have even been jacking up the cost of generics. They demand for the legal monopoly that is patent protection in exchange for developing new drugs, yet still fail to invest in developing treatments for rare diseases. We see pharmaceutical companies raking in spectacular profits, claiming it is needed to fund research. However, almost all of them spend more on marketing their drugs than they do researching new ones and profits far outstrip investment on research. Continue reading

NPF Report reviews: Health & Care

There is nothing like a snap General Election to shake health and care priorities out a thicket of possible options and fuzzy thinking. And like the rest of the document, the health and care proposals in the Labour Manifesto struck a chord with the wider public and with health and social care staff.

The headline messages from the Manifesto were an increase in NHS and Care spending of £38 billion over the lifetime of the next parliament. This makes sense as it is clear that NHS performance has deteriorated as public investment has declined. To get the best value from these increases Labour promised to invest in staff, end the commercialisation of care and to promote greater cohesion within the health service itself and with social care. Mental health funding would have a new priority with a ring-fenced budget and a greater emphasis on the needs of younger people. Continue reading

Saving the NHS: What has improved in Labour’s health policy?

Labour should always be proud of creating the NHS. No less, creating it in “the aftermath of war and national bankruptcy” as our 2017 manifesto states. Labour will always be the party to save the NHS, but in recent elections it has not been able to save the Labour Party.

The Conservatives leading hospitals into deficit and missing target after target doesn’t swing everyone to the left as some might hope.

The Labour Party in recent history has fallen short of  offering the necessary solution of an injection of funding and a long term strategy – allowing the right to offer their own ‘answers’. Right-wing media and UKIP have been able to dominate the debate with ideas of privatisation, while blaming long-term users of the NHS and immigrants. Continue reading

Diane Abbott: Vote Labour to Save Our NHS

Vote Labour to Save Our NHS

By Diane Abbott MP

One of the clearest issues at stake in the upcoming General Election will be the very future of our NHS, and the differences between Labour and the Tories on this issue couldn’t be clearer.

Tory austerity has meant that the NHS has been stretched to its limits this winter, with wards closed, operations cancelled and treatments delayed.

The government is driving through £22 billion in cuts by 2020. Alongside this, in a clear false economy, cuts to social care mean more and more patients languish in hospitals. There is a huge knock-on effect on the NHS, where each year more older people are finding themselves trapped in hospital, simply because there isn’t the care available for them. Continue reading

NPF Responses – Health

The National Policy Forum’s consultation on Health and Social care is set in the firm context of an underfunded health and social care service. This is correct. However, the document is insufficiently clear about the need to reverse the general direction of travel and fails to give enough indication about Labour’s alternatives. In the rest of this article I have tried to combine two articles in one both commenting on and proposing changes to the draft. Most of what follows consists of suggested amendments/additions to the draft. The passages in italics are my comments on the draft.

Every organisation has scope for some savings, reform and doing things better including the NHS. But this should not obscure the fundamental truth that the funding crisis in  UK health and social care is also part of an ideological drive to reduce the role of the state as all our key public services. Linked to this is the equally ideologically driven policy of diversifying public service provision to include the corporate and for-profit sector in care delivery. And as our public services come under more and more pressure, those who can afford it will resort to “better” private care provision and so create further momentum to undermine  the social solidarity that is at the heart of our welfare state and public sector. Continue reading