Friday 20 September 2013

Health and wealth

Started Thursday morning off with yoga. Yes, strange I know but I was speaking at the Department of Health senior staff awayday. And DH like to practise what they preach; so staff keep healthy through exercise. I'm thinking of introducing this at ACEVO…

Health has certainly been in the news of late. But I was reminded about what a treasure we have in our NHS by a friend of mine. Judi Clements used to run MIND but 8 years ago she went off to New Zealand to run their Mental Health Foundation. She was over on a visit so she trekked up to Brixton for dinner. She was telling me she had a health problem and had gone to A+E at St Mary's. She was dealt with quickly and efficiently and given proper treatment. In NZ she recounted you pay for every visit to the doctors and even for ambulance journeys. She told me we should never forget how valuable our health service is.

I recounted this tale to the DH staff but made the point that we forget that a free universal service does not mean it must be delivered by employees of the state. Indeed if we believe in citizen and patient choice we need more diversity of provision. We need more delivery of health and social care by charities and social enterprises. That strengthens the NHS. And it is not about the parrot cry of privatisation. That whole debate is often conducted at the level of slogan not logic and it depresses many ACEVO members that the contribution we make is dismissed as "privatisation". Our sector never seeks to profit and often offers better care for better value. Just think of Britain's 220 hospices, for example, who provide top-quality end-of-life care and are not NHS commissioned.

I've had a good week meeting members; Richard Parry who is the new CEO of the Rivers and Canals Trust (used to be a quango called British Waterways - now a charity), the Energy Savings Trust and of course numerous CEOs at the Lib Dems. Core part of the job. My members keep me on their toes. And one message I am getting from them is to keep up the pressure on the Lobbying Bill. I shall. 

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