Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Peterborough City Council, Cllr Nick Sandford:
Locally and nationally, Liberal Democrats have radical policies to tackle the underfunding in our National Health Service. To tackle the funding crisis, we would add 1p to income tax to provide a short term boost, and in the longer term look to transform national insurance into a dedicated health and social care tax.
Locally, our city is underperforming on many key public health indicators. Too often our health services are focused on treating those who are ill, and Lib Dems would like to see much more emphasis on preventing illness. 40 per cent of NHS budgets are currently spent on treating illnesses which are preventable. NHS Campaigns such as the Diabetes Prevention Programme have had great success in Peterborough and in other cities, but at the same time we see our council cutting spending on the Healthy Peterborough Campaign (which puts across similar messages on healthy eating and exercise) by over 80%.
We also need to recognise the connections between health outcomes and education, transport and housing. The council should work to tackle the impact of social, economic and environmental factors on health outcomes. For example, in transport policy we should be encouraging walking and cycling, but Tory councillors’ obsession with car travel means that provision for pedestrians and cyclists is neglected, and poor maintenance of green space means it does not attract people to use it for healthy exercise.
We believe that the council must persuade central government to step in and cancel Peterborough City Hospital’s PFI contract to put our hospital on a more sustainable financial footing, and allow more money to be invested in patient care.
Mental health has been the poor relation of the NHS for too long and it needs to be taken more seriously. One of the areas of mental health which is a big concern for the Liberal Democrats in Peterborough is loneliness and social isolation. The Lib Dems have a stated aim of making Peterborough the country’s first ‘Age Friendly City’.
Both locally and nationally, the Lib Dems are concerned by the impact of Brexit on our NHS. There has already been an 80% drop in applications for nursing jobs from people in other EU countries. We believe it is vital that European doctors and nurses are given the certainty that they will be able to remain in the UK if Brexit happens. But at the last Full Council, the Tories rejected Lib Dem calls for the council and its partners to do some basic contingency planning to help services cope with the likely impacts of Brexit. That attitude is sheer folly.
The council should work with the Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure that patients wherever possible are able to get to see a GP or nurse at times which suit them.
Forcing patients to ring up at 8am in the morning and join a long queue just to book an appointment is quite simply bad customer service, and such practises should be ended.
Finally, there are some areas where Government needs to act. They should develop a strategy to tackle childhood obesity, including restricting the marketing of junk food to children, restricting TV advertising before the 9pm watershed, and closing loopholes in the sugary drinks tax. They should also insist on clearer and more consistent labelling of foods and introduce mandatory targets on sugar reduction for food and drink producers.