Dr Lisa Cameron MP
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Health (APHG)
Health Policy Manager, Policy Connect
The saying “never waste a good crisis” is more apt now than ever before.
Public awareness of both public health and climate change has never been higher and the two are becoming increasingly linked in the mind of the public, as well as policymakers. Alongside this, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a series of legislative and policy proposals regarding the organisation and delivery of services from public health to primary and secondary care.
The first step in ensuring that this crisis is not wasted is collecting examples of best practice. We need to see what’s already working to recover and reimagine a sustainable health service geared towards the needs of the population now and in the future.
Several steps that represent a shift towards sustainable healthcare and improved patient experiences have been accelerated during the pandemic, including, for example, the use of innovation to digitise aspects of the health service. The NHS has introduced several measures at pace during the pandemic including use of telehealth appointments and medication reminders, virtual neurorehabilitation and virtual wards. These innovations offer alternatives to hospital visits that manage time and resource effectively whilst responding timeously to patient need.
We need to see what’s already working to recover and reimagine a sustainable health service geared towards the needs of the population now and in the future.
These examples can influence policy to ensure that sustainability is embedded into proposed changes to health care delivery. The NHS Health and Care Bill will be presented before Parliament in 2021. The Bill offers the opportunity to embed innovation; the focus on integrated care also promotes sustainability in other ways through data sharing, personalised care, treating patients in their preferred place of care and distributing resources according to the needs of the population.
Further organisational changes include the structure of public health including the formation of the UK Health Security Agency and the rest of public health being brought into the Department of Health and Social Care. These reforms have the potential to aid a shift towards a preventative health service if applied effectively.
Effective policy making
To ensure a sustainable health service, fit for purpose now and in the future, policy makers must ensure that legislation reflects the needs of the population.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Health is one forum for this. The group provides an opportunity to hear the voices of industry and innovators, health service leaders and patients. It brings together a cross-party group of parliamentarians and is committed to a collaborative approach, promoting better public policy.