Thursday, 30 May 2013

Durham University Healthcare Debate with Demos

Last night around 150+ people from all across the North East attended the University to debate health inequalities, and the wider public health issue to include
On the panel were Professor Clare Bambra, the think tank Demos's director Claudia Wood, who had taken time off her honeymoon to attend [that is dedication], Professor Ian Greener, Professor
Peter Kelly, myself and my fellow MP Chi Onwurah. Chairing the panel was the BBC's
Chris Jackson.
The panel discussed all matters from integration of health and other public services, to early years intervention, bringing power back to the regions, and analysed in depths the reasons for the past and present north and south divide in terms of health. There was broad agreement as to causations ranging from historically unhealthy industries to long term unemployment issues and attitudes to alcohol, smoking and lifestyle.
Many of the answers that people sought for the economic turn around are found in the Heseltine Report as to the transfer of power away from Whitehall and this years Adonis Report into the North North East, as commissioned by the LEP.
I was able to plug the regional banking conference in a weeks time when we will be trying to explain and then set up local banks here in the North East to help implement the changes that so many people wanted to see, as part of an empowerment of the local economy and a return to responsible lending / growth.
Great contributions from Dr Paul Williams of Stockton & David Taylor Goodby, both of whom were involved in local healthcare and CCG's. Having spent the day seeing the integration that is already happening between the North East Ambulance Service, my CCG and my Trust we compared notes / experiences of the benefits of the changes. I was able to make the point to a former Prudhoe resident that at the Ferndene NHS Centre in Prudhoe we have the UK leader in healthcare facilities for children who have significant mental health problems and I explained the great work Mental Health North East is doing.
I raised some eyebrows by making the point that I disagree with the government on alcohol pricing - this has been prevented as it is seen as a tax on the low paid / poor. I counter that by arguing that these are exactly those who the state should be trying to protect. Similarly I am adamant that more needs to be done to stop supermarkets selling alcohol low price and at the checkout. Find me a single Doctor, ambulance worker and policeman who does not agree that pre loading and cheap alcohol is a serious problem and I will buy you a regulated pint in a pub -who are being starved of business by reason of the supermarkets approach.
Although some in the audience were critical of the state of the Health Service most felt it was about changing priorities away from reactive medcine to preemptive medicine.
All agreed government departments are not good at talking to each other and that progress on this issue was slow. We had a good discussion on the importance of specialist hospitals for specialist problems - I used my craniotomy as an example - this is not something I would have wanted to be treated for at Hexham General.
One questioner called Bob asserted that government sees the state as malign - I did all I could to persuade him that this was so not the case and would go so far as to say that I have never met anyone who has said that either in or out of the Commons. My hostess Clare called for a Roosevelt style new deal of spending and other speakers called for more spending on a variety of issues. I could have pointed out that we are doing huge amounts of capital infrastructure plans both locally and nationally, that we are spending significant sums to boost apprentices and the skills agenda and did make the point that the North East economy is growing and is the only region in the country with a postive balance of payments + double the number of apprentices than were being created previously.
On Health we talked mostly of public health issues with some digs at the Coalition and I could have raised the point that the Labour Party has repeatedly made it clear in the House of Commons that it would spend less on health than the Coalition [see Andy Burnham MP, Labour Health Spokesman 16/10/10:
"It is irresponsible to increase spending in real terms" and his commitment to keep the NHS reforms that he initially opposed.]
But last night was not the time. It was a well attended robust debate and my thanks to all the organisers and attendees. I have agreed to write a piece for Demos for the autumn.