- The health service should do more than help the sick; it should tackle the causes of illness. Much of the health budget is spent treating the cancer, mental illness and heart disease that are symptoms of our stressed and polluted way of life. Over time, all of our policies would improve health. For example, ten people die every day in traffic accidents in Britain. Our transport policies would reduce this toll.
- Meanwhile, we would spend more on preventive measures and public health. Community-based Health Centres will be developed, with multidisciplinary staff teams, including occupational, complementary and physio-therapists. These will improve primary health care, health promotion and family planning, and build close relationships between hospital and community-based care.
- Local communities must be involved in planning and providing these services, avoiding both the centralised bureaucracy of the old-style public sector and the wrong-headed imposition of market forces. The NHS has never belonged to the patients. It is a battleground between the professionals and managers and the economists and accountants. We will ensure that NHS Trust and Health Authority boards are fully democratised by including elected representatives of users, staff and local government. Such bodies will have the power to make publicly-accountable decisions on NHS priorities. Rationing already occurs and is inevitable – the form it takes should be subject to public debate. Health policy decisions should be taken only after non-medical preventive options have been costed and analysed.
- A rural region like Wessex depends on locally accessible hospitals and there should be no centralisation of facilities without demonstrable advantage to the well-being of patients. Ambulance services will be organised at county level, but we would be happy to examine the case for a regional control room to make best use of the resources deployed in the field.
- The free market cannot be left to determine health provision but if public health care is to be understood as free at the point of use then the principle must be applied consistently. There will be no charges of any kind. The NHS must be funded from general taxation, but to ensure public support for this the revenue stream must be clearly identified and protected.
A regionalist government in Wessex will:
- spend more on preventive measures and public health
- democratise the decisions made within the NHS on spending priorities and involve local communities more in the management of hospitals
- re-introduce free eye tests and dental treatment and abolish prescription charges
- explicitly earmark a percentage of income tax to increase health spending towards the European average and ensure that the taxation of drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, is entirely directed to health purposes.
Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:
- campaign for NHS decisions to be taken openly and for full information to be relayed back to local communities by councillors serving on NHS bodies