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Safe staffing at heart of specialist health party election push

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The National Health Action Party would invest in safe staffing levels and strengthen support for NHS whistleblowers, according to its election manifesto.

It would strive to create a health service that “truly values its staff” promising a fair pay structure to ensure the NHS can “retain experienced staff and recruit new staff”.

Meanwhile, the manifesto document promises “staff who witness things going wrong will be supported and their complaints taken seriously”.

Key pledges include a commitment to invest in safe staff-patient ratios and reduce the health service’s reliance on agency staff.

“There must be enough doctors, nurses, midwives, ambulance staff and other healthcare professionals to ensure swift, safe and high quality treatment,” said the document, which was published earlier this month.

“This must be backed by proper planning for the training, recruitment and retention of staff,” it added.

The minor party, which is only three years old, was launched in 2012 to “defend the NHS and its values” in the wake of the coalition government’s health reforms, brought in via the Health and Social Care Act.

It has only 12 candidates standing in the election and has, therefore, carefully targeted constituencies affected by NHS issues, such as hospital closures. Among them are Karen Howell, a former nurse and health visitor​, who is standing for Stafford.  

In particular, the party’s manifesto highlights the need to address mental health funding and promises to increase staffing levels for mental health professionals.

When it comes to nursing specifically, the National Health Action Party said it endorsed the priorities outlined by the Royal College of Nursing in the run-up to the election, which include safe staffing, access to training, fair pay and no more cuts to nursing jobs.

The party said it would also address shortages of midwives and a lack of midwifery training places.

As part of efforts to improve the NHS complaints system, the party would introduce local independent health commissioners and appoint a specific Health Service Ombudsman.

Patients, relatives and staff could contact the health commissioners with concerns under this system, which is inspired by the set-up in New Zealand.

The party also pledged to reduce “the Department of Health’s dependence on management consultants” and boost the influence of professional bodies like the RCN and staff groups.

In addition, it would strengthen the whistle-blowing system “to allow staff to identify and report their concerns about quality of care and patient safety without fear of recrimination”.

Responding to public concerns about hospital closures, the party said it would defend the District General Hospital model as a good model for most people who require a hospital stay.

Changes in services should be supported by local clinicians and the party also pledged to “restore responsibility for health planning to public health and clinical leaders”.

Other key policies include:

  • £4.5bn cash injection plus increased funding for the NHS of at least 4% per year
  • Ultimate goal to bring NHS funding in line with other G7 countries
  • Fair pay structure with salaries that rise in line with inflation and lowest paid staff to earn at least the living wage
  • Retain local hospitals and promote the District General Hospital model with links to larger specialist hospitals
  • No more Private Finance Initiatives with a full investigation into mis-sold contracts
  • Abolish prescription charges
  • 10,000 more GPs and reverse cuts to general practice funding
  • Bring public health services back into the NHS
  • Free personal social care for the elderly and disabled
  • Ensure all staff in health and care have the skills to work with elderly patients and measure what aspects of care matter most to older people and their families
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