This weekend saw over 300 students from across the UK converge on Cambridge for the annual Medsin Global Health Conference.
As expected there was lots of talk on the NHS reforms, with Big Society NHS holding two workshops on the issue, and some active campaigning too. With some big name speakers including Sir Michael Rawlins the chairman of NICE, Prof Simon Szreter and Dr Roger Banks speaking openly about the reforms, there is clear interest from all parties that they could seriously reduce the quality of patient care.
The weekend started with a plenary on, How do we know if a disease is important?
Sir Michael Rawlins spoke about how NICE make recommendations based on cost-effectiveness and the best possible evidence available. They use patients as part of their guideline development groups – an example where patient involvement already occurs in decision making for the NHS.
Simon Szreter stated that “throughout history political disruptions to healthcare have cause problems such as increasing disease prevalence and inequalities due to increases in poverty.”
Mr Brendan Moriarty, a consultant eye surgeon, made the point that the best care occurs when “there is a social health network which in the UK is currently under attack and we need to advocate to stop this”.
Many questions followed on from this.
The first was how NICE’s involvement is going to be changed. There have been reports that it will no longer provide evidence based guidelines to help commissioners decide on best practice.
As chairman of NICE, Sir Michael Rawlins stated that NICE will still give advice but there will be an increasing postcode lottery as some GP consortia will use the best practice available, whilst others continue to old guidelines. As a result of the practice boundary abolition patients will wander between practices, going to those which offer the best services. As part of this the UK Cancerfund is an important step in the reforms. It was a policy dreamed up during the election campaign by the Tory party. So far it has been underspent and questions the necessity of its input into healthcare.
Michael Rawlins during the course of questioning also made the following two statements:
“The NHS is precious. I have been privileged to work in it and we need to preserve it.”
“World needs leaders that create policies based on ‘hard, solid evidence’”.
Simon Szreter, a lecturer in history and public policy at Cambridge, added that, “an institution like the NHS is fundamental, few have benefitted from a capitalist centre”.
Another plenary where the NHS reforms were mentioned was Mental illness and its effects; where Jeremy Thomas, an ‘expert patient’, mentioned how routine and continuity were important and that this could change with variation in providers.
During his key-note speech and personal conversations Dr Tim Crocker-Buqué, a current FY1 physician in London, mentioned his concern over increases in healthcare inequalities, the falsity of decreasing management, and the effect both the NHS reforms and the Workforce white paper will have on the training of all healthcare professionals.
Many of the students were opposed to the plans, alongside physicians and health experts, and so it is worrying that the Tory government plans to continue with the reforms when there is so much opposition. More news from the weekend will follow in the up-coming days.