A Liberal Party Policy Statement
Liberals pioneered the National Health Service and are appalled at
its present condition following the so-called reforms inflicted by
Furthermore Liberals believe that New Labour's current management of
the National Health Service is being driven by target setting which
has more to do with the health of political reputations than the health
of the nation; we deplore the wasting of money on bogus public consultation
surveys and the increasing dependence on private health care which we
believe undermines the confidence of patients and health workers in
Liberals say that the National Health Service should be firmly established
on the Liberal principle of public funding sufficient to meet all the
health needs of the nation, with the private sector being available
as an additional choice for those who wish to pay over and above their
taxation contribution to the NHS and not as an alternative form of health
However, financial resources are never infinite, even for the health
service, and difficult decisions have to be made about priorities. In
any case, throwing money indiscriminately at health provision can obscure
good practice or be an excuse for avoiding important questions on medical
ethics and effectiveness. An extension of the limited list for prescribing
would, for example, benefit patients and save money. Public health,
prevention and basic care services that benefit the many must generally
take priority over technological advances which at best can help only
the few. Pioneering work offering potential future benefits over a wider
scale should be supported by trusts and charities.
Liberals recognise that the continuing development of medical technology
is putting a great strain on the financial resources of the NHS, often
at the expense of less newsworthy and less high-tech forms of medical
treatment. We believe that such a moral dilemma is unlikely to be tackled
by political parties, and therefore call for the setting up of a Royal
Commission to investigate the impact of medical technology on ethics
and medical funding.
The Liberal Party opposes the opting out of hospitals and other parts
of the health service and call for the return of all NHS trusts to the
mainstream NHS. The changes introduced by the Conservatives have led
to a massive increase in bureaucracy, to the extent that accountancy
is now the fastest growing specialism in the health service. The privatisation
of sections of social work, hospital services and sheltered housing
have led to a lack of co-ordination within the health service.
A new structure
Liberals believe that, as a general principle, decision making should
be devolved to the most local practical level. Local decision making
allows communities to have a real say, avoids the errors so often caused
by remote management and reduces bureaucracy. The Liberal Party therefore
- the work of health authorities to be brought under democratic
control by being transferred to local councils;
- regional government, when established, to have a co-ordinating
- the transfer of responsibility for social services from county
to district level in areas which retain the “two-tier” system
of local government;
- the fullest possible co-operation within local authorities between
health, social services and housing to provide a “seamless”
- training programmes to reflect the need for close co-operation
between different professions and mutual understanding of their respective
- continuing local consultations between health service professionals
and the public on the manner in which services are provided;
- protected terms and conditions of employment for all staff;
- a supportive working environment for people working in the health
service which we believe is more likely to achieve high standards
than the present culture which seeks to apportion blame.
These Liberal measures represent a radical transformation of the NHS
and we recognise that, in the short term, a real increase in funding
is required to ensure equitable levels of pay (especially for ancillary
staff), adequate resources for the provision of mainstream services,
and a consequent restoration of morale in the NHS.
The objective of Liberal health policy is the promotion of positive
health, with the NHS as the primary provider of medical care and advice
available to all. Private practice cannot be outlawed but, with changing
attitudes toward health and consequent improvements in the NHS, it ought
only to supplement the NHS rather than provide an alternative for the
Liberals recognise that prevention is better than cure and believe
there is a need for more research into the links between diet and disease.
We also support measures which encourage a healthy and balanced diet,
reduced consumption of fats, sugar and salt, and increased consumption
of fibre. Healthy eating is a vital step in a long line of public health
initiatives which have included the provision of pure water, sewage
treatment, clean air, and vaccination, which have transformed standards
over the past century. It must be given a high priority and the dominance
of food producers in the regulatory bodies must cease.
Liberals recognise the division between the cure of sickness and the
promotion of good health. To ensure an adequate distribution of resources
between these two aspects of the NHS, Liberals believe that the promotion
of health should be separated from the NHS and given to environmental
and educational agencies.
Liberals believe that an increasing number of people are suffering
unknowingly from allergies caused in the main by environmental pollution
and from consumption of inappropriate foodstuffs. As a result, many
people suffer long periods of misery, a poor quality of life and ultimately
long term illnesses. This in turn impacts on the National Health Service,
with particular regard to expensive treatments and drugs, occupation
of beds and long waiting lists.
Liberals envisage that a dramatic improvement in the nation's health
and a corresponding saving in NHS expenditure will result if the Government
were to introduce a comprehensive and fully funded allergy testing service
as part of the NHS primary care system, comprising a training scheme
for allergy specialists, regional allergy centres and local allergy
Greater use should be made of the media in the promotion of a better
understanding of health and diet matters, thereby relieving the workload
of the NHS. The basis on which pharmacists are paid should be changed
to fully recognise their important front-line role in the provision
of health advice. Changes to the law are needed to give individuals
more access to their medical records.
However, the Liberal Party is opposed to compulsory medication such
as the fluoridation of water supplies and would seek to prohibit the
addition of any substance to public water supplies for the purpose of
affecting or influencing directly the development or functioning of
any part of the human body, nervous system or mind.
Liberals call for a complete ban on all promotion of tobacco products
and regular increases in duties to discourage consumption. Liberals
also believe that, due to the effects of passive smoking, there should
be a ban on smoking in those parts of any building to which a member
of the public has the right of access except in areas set aside for
Liberals oppose compulsory HIV testing in principle as an infringement
of civil liberty. We believe that HIV positive people should not be
subject to any discrimination.
Genetic Research on Foetus’
Liberals oppose proposals to conduct genetic research upon the foetus
in the womb and call for such research to be banned.
Care and the community
Liberals support the concept of care in the community, as opposed to
care in large institutions, but it is vital that such care is adequately
funded. More funding is required for care of the elderly, disabled and
mentally ill, and for the rehabilitation of the increasing numbers of
those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and their families. Liberals
support greater partnership arrangements with the voluntary sector which
can usually provide more diverse and flexible opportunities for individuals
needing residential and day care.
We recognise that needs will vary from one community to another and
that the best approach will involve a partnership of the statutory and
voluntary groups to achieve care in the community. Looking after elderly,
frail and disabled people in their own homes is the civilised, rather
than the cheap, option - a lack of funding in this area is worse than
institutionalisation, especially for those volunteers and relatives
doing the caring.
Liberals support a Carers' Charter in recognition of the invaluable
work done by carers. Such a charter should specify the extent of community
and backup support, including home help, meals on wheels and health
services. Local Authorities should act to underpin individual and community
effort which should not be substitutes for voluntary activity. Nor should
people be abandoned to the crudity of market forces.
In addition, Liberals call for:
- citizens who are elderly or disabled and resident in homes, or in
receipt of day care to have access to independent advocates with access
to legal advice;
- reource led, caring and efficient social services able to respond
to individual needs and restore dignity to the individual.
The separation of the power to tax from the power to spend is the chief
single inhibition on the development of a better health service in each
region and district. The existence of appointed authorities, responsible
only for health provision, prevents a proper accountable assessment
of priorities across the broader field of social provision, including
housing, education and social services. The lack of a democratic base,
with its attendant appeal to the electorate, means that powerful consultants
in glamorous specialities inevitably exert too much influence. The lack
of powers to raise income ensures subservience to the dictates of the
Minister of Health.
Liberals call for the establishment of regional assemblies which would
include health powers and would bring local health provision into government.
This would solve the problem of the inherent weakness in Community Health
Councils and greatly improve the rights of patients and other users
within the health service and would improve grant aid facilities for
self-help groups, such as “Well Women” clinics.