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Let’s put health first — the BMA manifesto 2015

As political parties begin to set out their stalls in the run-up to the general election, the BMA outlines four steps to a healthier nation. 

Politicians must work with doctors to ensure the quality and safety of patient care and the sustainability of the NHS, the BMA has urged.

With the UK general election eight months away, the BMA has set out its vision for doctors, patients and the health service ina four-step manifesto for the health of the nation.

The manifesto reiterates the association’s commitment to the NHS principles of equal access to free-at-the-point-of-service healthcare, highlights key issues such as funding and training opportunities, and supports transparent working environments where staff can raise patient safety concerns without fear of reprisal.

BMA council chair Mark Porter says: ‘As doctors, we have a pivotal role in promoting the highest quality of care for our patients.

‘Through our daily contact with patients and our world-class training and experience, we know their concerns and expectations at first hand.  

‘We are ideally placed to work with politicians, patient groups and policy makers to identify short and longer-term priorities for healthcare and the health service.

‘The BMA is the voice of doctors.

‘All our campaigning activity focuses on the fact that doctors must be integral to the future of the NHS.

‘Our manifesto sets out the main areas that our members have identified as priorities for the new government — our four steps to a healthier nation.

STEP ONE — work in partnership with doctors to ensure a sustainable NHS

The BMA has warned that any incoming government will have to demonstrate unequivocal commitment to making the NHS financially sustainable, if public confidence in the health service is to be maintained.

Quality of care has, according to the association, been undermined by year-on-year reductions in NHS funding, with successive governments pursuing marketisation and competition, and the impact of reorganisations and transaction costs having damaged the health service’s core values.

The BMA wants politicians to ensure that rather than being guided by market forces, health services are shaped around patient needs with an equal emphasis on he quality of care and achieving value for money.

The manifesto adds that changes to the health service need to be based on independent research and evidence, and calls for an end to ‘wasteful’ organisational restructures. 

STEP TWO — support the medical workforce

In ensuring that the health service continues to attract world-class doctors and other healthcare professionals, any future government must guarantee that workplace terms and conditions reflect the skills and expertise of staff.

The BMA argues that long-term investment in doctors also requires that working conditions enable staff to provide safe and effective care for patients.

The association has also highlighted the importance of training, and that maintaining and improving standards in undergraduate, postgraduate and further professional development remain a key priority.

STEP THREE — improve the health of the public

The BMA has a strong tradition of backing policies that have an impact on health and well-being. 

The BMA argues that it will be imperative for any incoming government to ensure that services relating to public health are properly funded, in order to support health professionals in preventing ill health before the need for treatment.

Key areas include a commitment to introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol of no less than 50 pence, along with general efforts to restrict or limit the promotion and availability of alcoholic drinks.

The manifesto urges politicians to maintain the UK’s tough stance on tobacco, by encouraging policy makers to adopt the BMA proposal to ban the sale of cigarettes to those born after the year 2000.

The association is also calling for greater investment in the healthcare of young people, through a commitment to curbing the availability of unhealthy foods, and providing greater access to sport and exercise.

STEP FOUR — assure the quality and safety of patient care

High-profile failures in standards of care, such as those at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, mean doctors and politicians need to work to establish a new culture of quality and safety within NHS.

In point four of its manifesto, the BMA urges the next government to shift its focus away from target setting to promoting a more transparent and supportive working environment within the health service.

In doing so, political parties can help create an environment in which doctors and other health professionals can confidently raise concerns without fear of reprisal, thereby improving standards in care.

The BMA further argues that assessment of care standards should be made through a focus on clinical effectiveness in frontline services, rather than through cost savings or short-term goals.

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