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MPs face the '2015 Challenge' over NHS pledges

A coalition of organisations has banded together with the aim of holding our politicians to account over healthcare. Photo: PA

Imagine this: the government's pursuing a policy which results in the closure of hospital departments. The minister in charge of the policy advocates it nationwide, but when it comes to shutting the unit in his constituency, he joins the protests ... against his own plans.

In fact, that is precisely what happened in 2006 when the Labour minister reconfiguring maternity services, Ivan Lewis, put up a fight to save his local maternity unit in Bury.

And it is precisely the kind of farcical scenario that key players in the health service are determined should not happen again.

Ivan Lewis was the first minister with direct responsibility for health in 2006 when he protested his own plans. Credit: PA

So, a pretty impressive coalition of organisations has banded together with the aim of holding our politicians to account over healthcare: a mission they're calling "The 2015 Challenge".

This coalition represents NHS clinicians, staff and senior management, plus local councillors and patient groups. Their demand is that the political parties are honest with the public about the problems facing the health and care system. And they want to see bold, realistic election pledges that the parties will stick to - both nationally, and when tough choices must be made at a local level.

Today a '2015 Challenge Declaration' has been launched, outlining in detail the seven major challenges the NHS faces. Credit: PA

Today a "2015 Challenge Declaration" has been launched, outlining in detail the seven major challenges the NHS faces.

  • The need challenge: Meeting the rising demand for care, particularly from people with complex needs or long-term conditions.
  • The culture challenge: Building confidence in the health service by achieving a fundamental shift in culture from the bottom up. Creating a more open and transparent NHS
  • The design challenge: Redesigning the health and care system to reflect the needs of people now – and so that it remains sustainable in the future
  • The finance challenge: Recognising the financial pressures on all parts of the system and squeezing value from every penny of public money spent on health and care
  • The leadership challenge: Creating value-based, system leaders across the NHS and empowering them to improve health and wellbeing for local people
  • The workforce challenge: Planning for a workforce to better match changing demand
  • The technology challenge: Using technology to help transform care and enabling people to access information and treatment in a way that meets their needs.

The 2015 Challenge partners want all the political parties to sign up to this shared analysis, as a starting point for an open debate with the public about the future.

That's going to be a difficult conversation. We are all going to have to face some uncomfortable truths about what the nation can afford, and face the prospect of radical change to a health and social care structure we've all become reliant on.

But unless we're content to allow politicians to say one thing to the nation, then fight a completely different battle over local health services, it is a public debate that does need to start now.