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Get real on the challenges facing the NHS, party political leaders told

Alliance of leading bodies wants honest debate and proper policies ahead of next year’s general election

Caroline White

Tuesday, 03 June 2014

An alliance of local government, NHS, and patient organisations, spearheaded by the NHS Confederation, has told the leaders of the three main political parties to come clean on the challenges facing the NHS and set out their plans for addressing them ahead of next year’s general election.

If they fail to do so, they will have to take responsibility for the service becoming “unsustainable in the form people want it,” it says.

In letters sent to David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband at the end of May, the alliance urges them to publicly recognise the challenges facing the health and care sector and ensure their policies for the upcoming general election deal with them.

Early last month—a year ahead of the general election—the partnership published the 2015 Challenge Declaration, which outlines a set of 'burning issues' the health and care sector must tackle if it is to remain sustainable.

The alliance was formed to highlight the scale and nature of the challenge, make the case for change, and lead a serious debate on potential solutions with its own members, politicians, and the public.

It is calling for a positive, shared vision for the future, which encapsulates the needs, assets, and wishes of the people using the health and care system, and the values of the people working in it.

The May Declaration identified seven challenges that must be faced at the 2015 election and beyond: need; culture; design; finance; leadership; workforce; and technology.

A recent NHS Confederation survey of more than 500 senior healthcare leaders revealed that 78% identified lack of political support as a barrier to much needed change in the NHS.

And in the letters to the party political leaders, the alliance insisted that the health service could not tackle the challenges it faces alone.

“We are calling for the kind of help only you, as leaders of the three major political parties, can provide...We need you, as political leaders, to show leadership,” it said.

The alliance is making itself heard in a bid to avoid the 'inaction' seen at the 2010 general election, when none of the party manifestoes detailed how they would tackle the financial challenge facing the NHS. 

With the health service facing its greatest ever challenge in its existence, "this must not happen again" the alliance warns. “Change to clinical services is coming – through effectively planned change or through unplanned and chaotic failure."

It continues: “With less than a year to go until the general election, it is vital that all of the political parties address the full range of challenges facing the NHS or take responsibility for it becoming unsustainable in the form people want it. 

We are calling on you to publicly recognise the challenges facing the health and care sector as spelt out in the 2015 Challenge Declaration – and to ensure the policies your party develops for the country to vote on in May 2015 address them,” the letters say.

The alliance, which includes medical royal colleges, local government, NHS representative, charities, and patient organisations, concluded by saying: “Everyone in the NHS wants to work with you to develop a system that can succeed...We need you to work with us to help our members to succeed in delivering great care every day.”

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