Andrew Lansley’s health strategy flounders
Health secretary, Andrew Lansley’s dubious strategy of enlisting the food and drinks industries to help form Government policies on health have prompted several leading organisations to ‘walk-out’ on his ‘responsibility deal.’
Questions have been raised as to whether the Government should be forming health policies based on advice from companies such as McDonalds.
Earlier this week The Royal College of Physicians, the Institute of Alcohol Studies, the British Liver Trust, the British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the British Association for the Study of the Liver wrote to Lansley spelling out that they could not support the alcohol deal, which would not help reduce illness and deaths from drinking.
Their concerns have been shared by Diabetes UK and the British Heart Forum, members of the panel looking at food and obesity.
Surely enough public decisions are already influenced and dictated by big business driven only by profit?
Sarah Bosely writes for The Guardian…
Two more health organisations are refusing to sign up to the government’s “responsibility deal” on public health, increasing the pressure on health secretary Andrew Lansley over his strategy of allowing the food and drinks industries to help form health policy.
Diabetes UK and the British Heart Forum, members of the panel looking at food and obesity, said they would not sign up to the deal which is being launched by the government. Their decision follows a walk-out by six leading health organisations who had been sitting on the alcohol panel.
The refusal of eight mainstream health organisations to participate in Lansley’s public health agreement is an embarrassment for the health secretary. Shadow health minister Diane Abbott said the government’s approach was “a favour to their friends in big business … The truth is that you cannot conflate corporate responsibility with public health.
“Whilst the government needs to work very closely with business and industry, all the big changes in public health over the last two hundred years have been done in the face of huge corporate and commercial interests.”Lansley is launching a series of pledges in five public health areas, including food, alcohol and exercise, which will involve industry and supermarkets signing up, for instance, to providing more information on alcohol units in drinks and on calories in restaurant and takeaway meals. There will also be pledges on reducing salt, while fast-food outlets like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC will promise to eliminate trans-fats from their products.
Regulation is costly, takes years and often falls to the EU, he said. “The deals published today, demonstrate the effectiveness of our radical partnership approach to deliver more and sooner.”
But critics, including doctors and health experts, say the pledges are minor undertakings that allow industry to appear to be participating in the improvement of public health without any commercial pain.
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said her organisation was committed to improving public health and that all sectors including industry had a part to play. “However, we are disappointed that the responsibility deal is not more ambitious in its vision as many of the pledges replicate existing standards,” she said.
“Drives to improve public health and slow the rise of Type 2 diabetes need clear actions by all sectors and for government to take the lead in ensuring all voluntary approaches are backed up with a clear public health framework. We are also not yet convinced the monitoring and evaluation framework is sufficiently robust or independent.”
Peter Hollins, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We hope to be able to sign up to the deal once further progress is made developing a robust monitoring system for the pledges. There also needs to be more clarity about the timetable for reviewing progress and taking regulatory action if results aren’t achieved.”
On Monday, the Royal College of Physicians, the Institute of Alcohol Studies, the British Liver Trust, the British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the British Association for the Study of the Liver wrote to Lansley telling him that they could not support the alcohol deal, which would not help reduce illness and deaths from drinking.
“By allowing the drinks industry to propose such half-hearted pledges on alcohol with no teeth, this government has clearly shown that when it comes to public health its first priority is to side with big business and protect private profit,” said Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern.
There was further bad news for Lansley with the publication of a House of Commons public accounts committee report showing that NHS productivity has been declining for the last 10 years in spite of increased pay for doctors and other staff. While Lansley blamed the last government, the report suggests this could make it even hard to deliver the £20 billion annual savings which the coalition wants for reinvestment and to reform the NHS.
Photo thanks to NHS Confederation on Flickr
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