I listened to some of the coverage of this event on Radio4’s Today Programme this morning. As I did so, I was very awareof how selectively politicians use data. For example, while cancer waiting times may have come down, those for many operations such as hip replacements have gone up. They have also gone up for most mental health issues. Indeed there has been a reduction in the number of nurses and other staff working in mental health, a field I worked in for over 25 years.
I will be voting Green. I don’t expect everyone who reads this to agree with me but I thought I should declare my interests. I have a problem with the use of cancer as a benchmark for how our health service is doing. It is an area where an increasing number of expensive drugs are used and the reality of a health service with finite resources means in my view, sometimes this money could be used elsewhere for greater gains for more people.
I also look at plans to cut welfare expenditure. Abraham Maslow said, “Good life circumstances are the best therapeutic agent.” Being able to afford to eat good nutritious food without having to worry about paying the rent or fuel bill makes a massive difference to both mental and physical health. In the 60’s it was said that spending money on improving housing made more difference to life expectancy than spending it on the health service.
What I would like to see is a health service that spent a lot more of it’s money on being a health service rather than where most of it goes which is dealing with illness.
Programmes in schools to teach positive ways of having better mental and physical health. Bringing back therapeutic communites which while expensive, prevented many from going on to become long term users of the mental health system. Access to talking therapies for depression within a fortnight of first appointment which should be within a week of a request being made. At present those with depression are likely to have over two months off work before any talking treatments starts. That is two months of sick pay and other costs for the employer and lost revenue to the state.
I would also like to see complementary therapies which in my view can do a lot to reduce stress, help in treating depression and reduce a dependency on pharmaceutical intervention be available to those without lots of money to spare. Aromatherapy shouldn’t be a luxury available only to the rich.
And as a final note, I do understand what it is like to lose a close relative to cancer and I would particularly welcome more money going to ensure better early diagnosis and treatment.